The next redrawing of Louisiana's legislative and congressional districts won't come around until 2021, but the issue could play a major role in Louisiana's 2019 state elections and has drawn interest from both major parties on a national level.
"The RNC has Louisiana circled for 2019," said Bo Staples, executive director of the Louisiana Republican Party. The Republican National Committee officials "plan on putting resources in the state to ensure that both chambers remain in Republican control."
That means keeping control of the redistricting process. Though the process varies from state to state, in Louisiana, the Legislature draws congressional and state legislative districts. Redistricting is the RNC's primary motivation for pushing resources here, Staples said.
Separately, the Republican Governors Association is expected to put significant effort into the 2019 governor's race in an attempt to unseat Gov. John Bel Edwards, the only Democrat serving as governor in the Deep South. In Louisiana, the governor has the authority to veto district lines drawn by the Legislature.
Republicans spent years developing their grip on state capitols across the country. Today, the party controls both legislative chambers in 32 states, including Louisiana.
Many credit that statehouse dominance for the GOP's ability to capture control of the U.S. House shortly after redistricting in 2011 and to maintain it since then.
On the national scene, Democrats led by former president Barack Obama and former attorney general Eric Holder are organizing under the National Democratic Redistricting Committee. Republicans have launched the National Republican Redistricting Trust to counter the Democratic effort.
In Louisiana, a nonpartisan, grass-roots effort has been launched to call for changes to the redistricting process in Louisiana to make the process more independent. Fair Districts Louisiana will join LSU's Reilly Center for Media and Public Affairs in hosting a Jan. 19 bipartisan summit on the issue.
While redistricting wasn't the main topic, it was discussed during a recent meeting of the Louisiana Advisory Committee to the U.S. Civil Rights Commission.
New Orleans state Sen. Karen Carter Peterson, who also chairs the state Democratic Party, said redistricting is one of her top priorities for the state.
Peterson, who testified at the commission hearing in her capacity as a state party leader, mentioned that in her role as chair of the state Senate and Governmental Affairs Committee, which wields significant influence over the process, she plans to hold hearings across Louisiana to gather input from the public and draw attention to the fact that redistricting looms.
It's unclear when those hearings may take place or whether Peterson's dual capacity would raise objections. Staples said he had not heard that hearings were planned and declined to comment on them.
Peterson recalled that early in her legislative tenure, when she was approached during redistricting and asked, "What would you like your district to look like?" she believed the primary objective behind that approach was to make it easier for lawmakers to win re-election.
"That is not going to help the people of Louisiana, and that's not going to help us as a state," she said.
Peterson said she believes that the most recent redrawing put as many minorities as possible into some districts and left other districts with few minorities, creating fewer competitive districts.
"Redistricting can get contentious," Staples noted, but he added that districts became more partisan on both sides during the last round.
He said that can be good for parties because they have to devote fewer resources when there are fewer competitive races.
"That could also speak to why things have gotten more partisan," he said. "Red districts are getting redder, and blue districts are getting bluer."