Redistricting roadshow, Tour gives residents chance to provide feedback on boundaries

Published 5:00 am Monday, December 20, 2021

Louisiana legislators will be tasked with creating new redistricting maps and boundaries in 2022. Based on census data gathered in 2020, new boundaries will be drawn based on regional populations taking into account United States constitutional provisions including the Equal Protections Clause of the 14th Amendment and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Elected officials for the House, Senate, Public Service Commission, Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education and the courts are affected by redistricting. To better serve and represent all citizens, the Legislature is hosting “2021 Redistricting Roadshows” across the state for residents to learn and give feedback.

McNeese State University hosted this month’s session for Southwest Louisiana. With portions of the region — which borders includes 13 parishes — population declines to the north and increases to the south guarantee changed future configurations for all districts.

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Attendees expressed primarily economic, partisan, environmental and racial concerns regarding the plans.

Sampson LeJeune of Jeff Davis Parish, said the parish’s boundary is split by the Mermentau River and he requested it be represented as a whole.

“I think we are better represented that way as a whole instead of being separated and thrown into Vermillion district or Calcasieu,” he said.

Dustin Granger of Calcasieu Parish said the congressional seats are not competitive with five safe Republican seats and one safe Democrat seat. Uncompetitive elections create resentment, extreme ideologies and voter apathy, he said.

“It’s undemocratic. It un-American. It’s morally wrong and we need competitive districts by party and racial proportionality.”

Donald Fondel of Calcasieu Parish echoed Granger’s concerns saying his vote as an African American doesn’t matter.

“It’s hard to encourage people to vote when your vote really just don’t matter.”

Megan Duhon of Acadia Parish, and George Swift of Calcasieu Parish said it’s economically prudent to keep Acadiana and Southwest Louisiana together in Congress because of their similarities.

“Many things tie us together and we believe having a single congressman representing our region is beneficial for the people and the economy,” Duhon said.

Similarly, Mark Iflan of Beauregard Parish requested the parish be drawn separately from its current configuration with Shreveport due to its cultural differences from the northern parish.

With its many connections including shopping, entertainment and employment in Southwest Louisiana, he said, Beauregard considers itself “part of Southwest Louisiana but U.S. Congressional districts don’t recognize that.”

Michael Pernick of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund said racial equality must be considered when drawing maps. The organization recently submitted seven different maps and configurations all with two Black districts to prove it is possible.

“The current map severely under represents Louisiana’s black community. One-third of residents are Black but one only one-sixth is represented by a person who had the support of Black voters.”

The next Roadshow will be Jan. 5 in New Orleans.