Another Black district? Democrats say yes and republicans give these 4 reason for why not. Systemic racism in view.
A Senate committee has yet to vote on the proposed congressional redistricting plans, but after hours of presentations Thursday, we now have a good idea of the excuses Republicans will use to not support the creation of a second majority-Black district in the state. Based on 2021 census estimates, 33% of people in Louisiana are Black. Meanwhile only one of the state’s congressional districts is majority Black: the 2nd Congressional District, which snakes from New Orleans to north Baton Rouge to encompass both Black Democratic strongholds. Black residents make up nearly 59% of the district. Civil rights groups like the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People support the creation of a second majority-Black district. The NAACP Legal Defense Fund said they’d sue if lawmakers don’t pass a plan with two majority-Black districts, just like they did in Alabama when their legislature passed a map that had only one majority-Black district out of seven, despite Black people making up 27% of the population.nola.com
Four reasons are given and I will let you decide on how valid they are. The main thing is we want what we have now and that is that.
Senate Democrats presented several proposals involving two majority-Black districts, but Senate and Governmental Affairs Chairwoman Sharon Hewitt, a Slidell Republican, repeatedly pushed back on them with the following four talking points. “It doesn’t violate the Voting Rights Act:” After Sen. Jay Luneau, a white Alexandria Democrat and Sen. Cleo Fields, a Black Baton Rouge Democrat, introduced their proposals for maps with two majority-Black districts, Hewitt referenced the same line from the VRA: “Provided, That nothing in this section establishes a right to have members of a protected class elected in numbers equal to their proportion in the population.” She then proceeded to ask them the same question. “My interpretation of that is it does not guarantee that because you have a third of your population that a third of your district should be represented by the minority,” she said. “I mean, it specifically says that in the act. Would you interpret it the same way?” “I don’t,” Luneau replied, “I interpret that to mean that the minority people are given the opportunity to elect the person they want. It doesn’t guarantee that a minority is going to be elected.” Fields, who presented several plans with two Black-majority districts had a similar response. “The Voting Rights Act does not say because your population is X then, you have to have X number of representatives,” he said. “We simply show that the minority population in the state is 33% and the minority population is compact enough to draw two minority districts, and we have presented that to you today.
Of course no one mentions that the Supreme Court voided most of the Voting Rights Act and republicans will not let the voting bills now proposed be voted on. Now to reason two.
“It matters where people live:” Going even further, Hewitt said that not only do Black voters making up nearly a third of population not have the constitutional right to a proportional amount of Black members of Congress, but that their population makeup doesn’t mean it’s “a foregone conclusion or right that you have two out of six districts be minority districts” either. Hewitt, whose proposed congressional map only included one majority-Black district, went on to suggest that where Black people live in the state might be the real problem. “They have to be in an area with sufficient population and compact enough where they would have an opportunity to elect the candidate of choice,” Hewitt said. “So where they live does matter.”
Compact enough? Look at the one I live in now that jigs and jags to Baton Rouge. Compact? Two down and here is the third.
Continuity of representation:” According to the National Conference of Legislatures, state legislatures should attempt to “preserve the cores of prior districts to provide continuity of representation” during redistricting. Legislators brought up this phrase a lot when pitching maps that kept the congressional districts similarly to how they presently are and specifically with only one majority-Black district. “I respect the voters in this state and know that they are in the best position to vote an elected official in or out of office based on their performance, and you don’t want to take away the voters’ ability to do that by completely reconfiguring the districts,” Hewitt said. While nice in theory, continuity is only a good thing if the maps are fair in the first place.
Core means White continuity like exists now. Now to the last.
“Too risky:” Pulling a reverse Uno card, Hewitt claimed that creating two majority-Black districts with slimmer majorities than the current sole majority-Black district would threaten having Black people elect their chosen candidate in any district. “I think it would be a failure on the part of the legislature to create two minority districts of such low voting age population that you would be at risk of not allowing the minority to elect a candidate of their choice,” Hewitt said. Michael Pernick, redistricting counsel with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, said House Bill 2, one of Fields’ redistricting plans, said Senate staff data shows that both districts would have Black majorities and solidly non-white majorities. Under HB 2, District 2 would include Orleans Parish and have a Black population of 54.5% and a Black voting age population of 52.3%, with white residents making up 37% of the voting age population. District 5, anchored by East Baton Rouge, would have tighter margins with a Black population of 54.2% and a Black voting age population of 51.7%. There, white residents would make up 43% of the voting age population. “We have done that analysis for these plans and provided a summary of that analysis to the committee back in December, and we are comfortable and confident that these two majority-Black districts would perform,” Pernick said.
Too risky? That is politics and elections. If more than 50% want a candidate they will get the votes. The second Black district is wanted by Blacks who need it to have representative power.
Sen. Ed Price, a Black Gonzales Democrat, added that Black residents supported the creation of an additional majority-Black district throughout the redistricting roadshows, where legislators traveled the state and collected public input. “I attended all nine roadshows and it seems like some of my colleagues, they’re ignoring the minority piece of what they heard during the roadshow,” Price said. “As minorities, I heard that they wanted a second minority district throughout the roadshow. So my colleague talked about everything else, but they’re not listening to what those minority people say — and that upsets me.”
Four reasons, none of the good but when you are in charge they don’t have to be good.