by: Alfred W. Speer, Clerk
Do not look for newly drawn legislative election districts for the 2007 election of members to the Louisiana Legislature.
We all know Orleans parish has lost hundreds of thousands of citizens and that many parishes have gained tens of thousands since Katrina and Rita devastated our state (2006 parish population estimates). And we all know legislative elections are conducted on geographic districts drawn to insure each voter’s franchise is equal, the one-person, one-vote principle.
So why will the districts in Orleans, which are so underpopulated (approximately 20,000 citizens versus 42,800 citizens in 2001), and the districts in the Florida parishes and surrounding Baton Rouge, which have all gained significant population, not be redrawn during the 2007 legislative session to adjust the representation to reflect the diaspora of Katrina?
The simple answer is two-fold: first, Louisiana’s constitution in Article III, section 6 requires we use only the decennial census figures; and, second, the federal Voting Rights Act [42 USCA §1973]. This federal law requires Louisiana to submit any change in its voting procedures (read new legislative districts boundaries) for review by the U. S. Department of Justice to gain their “preclearance” before Louisiana can legally enforce the new districts, that is use them in an election. For Louisiana to conduct elections in 2007 from newly drawn districts we would have to ask the Justice Department to approve the new districts. One of their criteria for review is and will be the population counts upon which we base our one-person, one-vote decisions – how we divide the known population into districts of as nearly as practicable equal population. Using the decennial census raises no questions with the Department as to the accuracy of the population count. Using an estimate of population, that is not basing one-person, one-vote decisions on an actual census but on mere estimates of population, will raise immediate suspicions that Louisiana is not protecting the voting rights of all its citizens.
One of the principles of redistricting law is that, even admitting the decennial census data is inaccurate the year it is used (2001 for this decade) and is certainly stale and seriously inaccurate in year seven since the census, census data is the only acceptable population basis upon which to base district drawing, be they drawn in census year + one or + seven.
Do not look for new election districts to be drawn for the 2007 election of Louisiana legislators, the candidates will run in the districts drawn in 2001, no matter the number of citizens actually living in those districts.