Redistribution is the hot topic at the State Capitoll these days, and it should be. The outcome of the extraordinary redistribution session, which is tentatively set for February, will impact almost all government decisions for the next decade.
While elected officials, lobbyists and political insiders are already maneuvering to have an impact on the redistribution, it behooves every voter to pay attention to the process as well. Fortunately, there are a number of ways to do this. The legislature is launching its statewide redistribution roadshow this week in Monroe in the first of 10 hearings it will hold across the state in the coming months.
The roadshow will be a forum where citizens can speak directly to their legislators about the new maps for the US Congress, and the state legislature, the state supreme court, the state board of education and the commission for the regulation of public services, as well as parish and local governments.
Citizens who wish to get involved in the process can also turn to community groups and advocacy organizations. Louisiana Progress, Fair Districts Louisiana, Together Louisiana, the Power Coalition for Equity and Justice, the ACLU of Louisiana and others will advocate for fair and equitable cards.
But what does it mean to have “fair and just” cards? At Louisiana Progress, we define it according to two principles: equal representation (racial proportionality) and competitiveness.
We have chosen these two principles for many reasons – they are about justice, fairness, equality and good government – but they are also measurable. We can use US Census Bureau data and voting trends to determine whether new cards meet the standard of equal representation and to predict whether these new districts will be competitive.
The lack of equal representation and competitiveness in our current maps has huge ramifications for our politics, our communities, our economy and our society. This leads to political and social divisions, as politicians are incentivized to grapple with political extremes, instead of working for productive compromises.
Many people think that their votes don’t count, which leads them to disengage from the political process. And many communities, especially communities of color, feel their voices are unfairly diminished or even silenced.
In a state where none of our six seats in Congress are competitive among the major political parties and, at most, six of our 144 legislative constituencies in total are competitive, where more than a third of the legislature has been elected without opposition, it is time for us to shake things up a bit by reintroducing competition into our often stagnant political system. After all, competition breeds innovation, and we can probably all agree that we need innovation in our state.
In 2022, the legislature and local government bodies will be able to resolve some of these systemic issues. We hope they take the opportunity and we hope citizens will be there to advocate for equal representation and competitiveness.
Melissa S. Flournoy, former state legislator, chairs Louisiana Progress Action.