Mike Stagg: Our Congressional Map Does Not Represent Us

An intra-party squabble involving Louisiana’s then-seven congressmen dominated the 2011 congressional redistricting process. Because other states grew faster than us, Louisiana lost a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives after the 2010 Census.

The Legislature has the responsibility to redraw the congressional district maps after each Census, but the congressional delegation is actively involved in the process. That was certainly the case during the 2011 special session on redistricting.

Congressman Charles Boustany‘s 7th Congressional District was being eliminated as the state went from seven to six districts. Boustany wanted to stay in Congress and was popular with his colleagues. Congressman Jeff Landry‘s 3rd Congressional District was adjacent to Boustany’s 7th and together they covered just about all of coastal south Louisiana.

The map that won the backing of the majority of the congressional delegation and the Legislature created the new 3rd District primarily out of Boustany’s old 7th. Landry’s old 3rd District (to which he’d won election in 2010) was carved up between the 1st and 6th Districts and Landry found him self running for re-election in 2012 against Boustany. Boustany won and Landry went off to work for the Koch Brothers for a bit.

The problem with the resulting map is that the jockeying for a favorable map between Boustany and Landry obscured what should have been the central consideration in drawing the new six-district map — Louisiana’s 37 percent non-white population warranted the creation of at least two congressional districts where minorities would have a chance to get elected (not to mention Democrats).

We are approaching the beginning of a new cycle that will give Louisiana a shot at creating a congressional district map that more accurately reflects the demographic reality of the state than the one we will have been saddled with for a decade by the time 2021 rolls around.

The key is citizen involvement. There will be plenty of opportunities to do that. There are tools that can enable you to develop your own maps to submit. Most of all, it’s clear that allowing a single party to dominate redistricting does not produce a map that reflects us as a people. Ultimately, that diminishes the ability of our congressional delegation, legislature and local governing councils to represent the people they are elected to serve.

In the podcast, I talk about the 2011 process (in which I was an active participant) and opportunities to learn about the upcoming process that will be upon us sooner than you think. Hint: the 2019 statewide elections will be crucial.