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Redistricting in Louisiana

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Note: Redistricting takes place every 10 years after completion of the United States Census. The information here pertains to the 2010 redistricting process.

Redistricting in Louisiana
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April 29, 2011
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Redistricting on PolicypediaState legislative and congressional redistricting after the 2010 CensusState-by-state redistricting procedures

This page is about redistricting in Louisiana.

Although Louisiana grew between the 2000 and 2010 Census, the state's 1.4 percent increase in population was not enough to keep up with other states. In fact, this small increase made Louisiana the decade's third-slowest-growing state (trailing all but Rhode Island and Michigan), a stand-out in the South, which saw regional growth of 14.29 percent. As a result, Louisiana lost a Congressional District, effective beginning with the 2012 elections.[1][2]

At the state level, the flight of people from the Hurricane Katrina disaster and broader population shifts wrought havoc on the equal distribution of population in State House, State Senate, and U.S. House seats. The state was stagnating mid-decade, and Katrina may have been the end of any chance the population would rebound.[3] Detailed Census data showed that 66 House and 24 Senate districts, which consisted of 62.86 percent and 61.54 percent or the total, respectively, were more than 10 percent away from being equally populated.[4]

Governor Jindal signed three bills on Thursday, April 14, 2011, which ended the redistricting process. These three bills were HB 1 and SB 1 covering legislative maps and HB 6 outlining the Congressional map. All three have received Department of Justice approval under the Voting Rights Act. Detailed color versions of the final maps, including close-ups of urban areas, are available online:


The Louisiana Legislature has full authority over all legislative, judicial, and congressional redistricting. However, the Governor has the authority to veto any redistricting plan for any reason.

The 2011 legislative redistricting meetings began on March 20, 2011.

In addition to losing a Congressional district statewide, the New Orleans area was poised to lose three, possibly four seats, due to population contraction.[5] Lawmakers expected to have to adjust the borders for nearly every district to bring each district close to the 'ideal' size of 43,174 people.[6]

As court elections were not held until 2012, redistricting Louisiana's Supreme Court and the lower level judicial offices did not occur during the spring 2011 session. That task was placed on the 2012 legislative agenda instead.[7][8][9]

The loss of a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives led to competing proposals for drawing the state's new Congressional outline, a challenge made steeper by the refusal of any sitting Congressman to bow out of a 2012 re-election bid.[10]. The first two came from the Louisiana Family Forum (LFF) and from Joe Harrison, a Republican Representative from Napoleonville.[11]

Committee assignments

The House and Governmental Affairs Committee and Senate & Governmental Affairs Committee, Louisiana State Senate have jurisdiction over redistricting.

House Committee Membership

The house committee was composed of 11 Republicans, 7 Democrats, and 1 independent.

Senate Committee Membership

The senate committee was composed of 6 Republicans and 4 Democrats.

Additionally, under the legislature's rules, the Speaker and Speaker Pro Tem were ex officio members of all standing committees, meaning that Republican Jim Tucker and Independent Joel Robideaux were also set to be involved. The Committee adopted rules on January 20, 2011 ahead of redistricting.[12]

Citing disproportionate representation by party, with 11 Republicans to seven Democrats and one Independent, Democrats indicated redistricting might be headed for the courts.[13]

Public hearings

A series of nine public hearings, located around the state, began on February 17, 2011, with the first meeting in the north of the state. State Representative Rick Gallot and his Senate counterpoint Bob Kostelka, as the chair of the Joint Committee on Government Affairs, are hosting the meetings. The feedback from citizens was a plea for simple and straightforward boundaries drawn as a result of a transparent process.

At the first forums in February 2011, many voters expressed a preference to see contiguous districts that respected geographic realities over the oddly-drawn seats that aimed to recognize minorities and communities of interest.[14] This suggestion was echoed in a March 2011 hearing in Alexandria, when citizens who lived in one District, but who earn and spend their money in another, expressed a wish to see lines drawn such that the economic impacts they create accrues to the same District that they live in.[15]

In early 2011, legislative staffers formally presented the current maps for all districts set to be redrawn: Congressional, state House and Senate, Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, Public Service Commission, Supreme Court, and the Courts of Appeal.[16]


Figure 2: This map shows the Louisiana House Districts after the 2000 census.
Figure 3: This map shows the Louisiana Senate Districts after the 2000 census.


With Hurricane Katrina's aftermath sending enough people out of state to cost Louisiana a Congressional District, the population shifts also substantially affected state legislative districts, including the largely African-American city of New Orleans.[17] Combined with the gubernatorial election, early expectations from observers suggested that Louisiana's redistricting process was going to be tense.

The 2011 redistricting effort was set to be led in the state Senate by Republican Bob Kostelka and Democrat David Heitmeier, the chair and vice-chair of the Senate and Governmental Affairs Committee.[18] The schedule for redistricting work considered the U.S. Census Bureau's plans for releasing state level data and announced a special session to begin in late March of 2010.[19]

Legally, the state must use a dedicated session for redistricting. Before Governor Jindal (R) could call such a session, lawmakers gathered enough petition signatures to call it themselves, which was the first time the legislature had exercised that privilege. Once that was done, the session was announced to sit on March 20, 2011, with a mandate to last as long as April 13, 2011. The regular legislative session was already scheduled to convene on April 23, 2011. On top of Congressional and legislative seats, districts for the Public Service Commission, State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, Louisiana Supreme Court, and some judicial offices also come under the special session's portfolio.[20] A minimum of nine regional meetings, to cover the entire state, were scheduled between January and late March, 2011.

Because Louisiana is subject to the Voting Right Act, the state must submit a complete plan to the U.S. Department of Justice and receive approval in time to use that plan in a fall election, with an October 22, 2011 primary already set. These constraints meant Louisiana had one of the United States's tightest schedules for redistricting in 2011. Recognizing this tight schedule, the Census Bureau put Louisiana into the first tier of states to receive the highly precise population information necessary for drawing boundaries, set to given over to the state's lawmakers on February 2, 2011.[21]

Census information overview

Using numbers provided by the Census Bureau, Louisiana's new 'ideal' House districts would have 43,174 residents, with a tolerance on either side running from 41,105 to 45,332. Senators would ideally each represent 116,240.

Ideal size for U.S. House seats, which was 638,425 in 2000, increased to 755,562 after the 2010 Census. The state's Supreme Court, which includes only seven members and will have the largest districts of all the state's offices, targeted 906,674 as an ideal district size.[22]

Of 105 State House seats, at least 27 will need to be majority-minority.[23]

Metropolitan New Orleans, consisting on seven parishes, dropped back to its 1970 size, losing 11 percent of its population in the decade. The southeast area, centered on Orleans Parish, fell by an even larger 20 percent.[24]

The Florida Parishes were the state's fastest growing region, while northern Louisiana lost population, with 26 of 29 parishes in the north shrinking.[25]

State challenges Census figures

Having reviewed the date received from the U.S. Census Bureau, Louisiana state officials and representatives of St. Landry Parish identified what they believed was a substantial error in the Census' work: a possible severe undercount of St. Landry's population. This count discrepancy meant that millions in federal funding was at stake. However, many considered it already too late to have potentially higher population numbers count toward redistricting, which was already under way in the state legislature.

Any state was allowed to appeal Census figures to the Census Bureau up to June 30, 2011. Louisiana was to request a full recount of the area in question, but even advocates of that effort had little hope for a full recount from the Census Bureau, as the Bureau had been reluctant to do so in the past. In the event of a refusal from the Census Bureau, the state would ask the University of Louisiana and Louisiana State University to jointly make a count of St. Landry; those figures would be presented to the federal government along with a petition to accept them instead of the Census numbers.

The Census Bureau admitted that their overall response rate from St. Landry Parish was a disappointing 64 percent, something they suggested was due to lack of cooperation. Parish officials, though, reported mounting complaints from their constituents that they never received a form or any follow-up from Census officials.[26]

Congressional Districts in November 2010

Partisan Registration and Representation by Congressional District, 2010
Congressional District[27] Republicans Democrats Other District Total Party Advantage* 111th Congress 112th Congress
1 (Lake Ponchartrain Shoreline) 171,465 163,678 114,451 449,594 4.76% Republican
2 (New Orleans) 39,629 236,218 85,403 361,250 496.07% Democratic
3 (Southern New Orleans Suburbs) 92,986 218,589 94,203 405,778 135.08% Democratic
4 (Northwestern Louisiana) 116,895 198,365 94,261 409,521 69.70% Democratic
5 (Northeastern and Central Louisiana) 110,271 108,335 87,649 418,782 1.79% Republican
6 (Baton Rouge and Western Florida Parishes) 131,089 217,783 101,709 450,581 66.13% Democratic
7 (Southwestern Louisiana) 112,146 226,149 105,571 443,866 101.66% Democratic
State Totals 774,481 1,481,644 683,247 2,939,372 91.31% Democratic 1 D, 5 R 1 D, 5 R
*The partisan registration advantage was computed as the gap between the two major parties in registered voters.

Congressional maps

LFF and Harrison Plans

The Louisiana Family Forum (LFF) plan, which was one of the first produced publicly, suggested splitting the predominantly black Orleans Parish in two, combining half of Orleans with the Parishes of St. Tammany and Washington. Under that plan, the other half of Orleans would be paired with southwestern coastal Parishes and coastal Parishes edging up to the Atchafalaya Basin.

By the special redistricting session, the LFF had teamed up with Democratic Senator Elbert Guillory, who switched parties a few years prior, to push what was by then renamed the Demographic Equity Plan.[28]

Rep. Harrison's plan kept Orleans intact and combined it with a portion of East Baton Rouge. That plan satisfied Louisiana's requirement under the Voting Rights Act (VRA) to have at least one majority-black district. The Harrison plan separated Lafayette and Lake Charles, directly clashing with Lafayette Congressman Charles Boustany, who openly desired for the two areas to remain in the same District.[29] However, Harrison's proposal imagined a District hugging the culturally homogenous coastline and allowing coastal issues, such as the fishing economy and shoreline erosion, to receive more focus. Residents in the proposed sphere of impact leaned toward keeping their Parishes, such as Lafourche and Terrebonne, intact and passed resolutions to such effect.[30]

In late March 2011, when the state legislature met to draw maps, Harrison presented a map that would put Republican Congressmen Fleming and Alexander, representing the 4th and 5th seats in the north, into a single district.

As the plan to preserve the coastline in a single District gained favor, Congressmen Jeff Landry of New Iberia and Charles Boustany of Lafayette, two Republicans, began to face the increasingly likely prospect that they might spend 2012 fighting one another for a single seat.[31] At the start of the 112th Congress, Landry was a freshman, the candidate who succeeded Charlie Melancon (D), while Boustany was beginning his fourth term, having faced no opposition in the midterms.

Both the House and Senate redistricting committee chairs hailed from Northern Louisiana. This geographic disparity was an additional sign the secondary plan, which would coalesce the 4th and 5th Districts, had little favor with the most influential actors in the process. Due to New Orleans' loss of one third of its population after Hurricane Katrina, the more northerly Baton Rouge looked set to gain both representation and clout.[32]

Boustany plan v. Landry plan

Rep. Boustany (R-7), presented his plan, which would save his seat and absorb much of the 3rd, in late February 2011. His plan for the other five seats included two large seats splitting Louisiana's northern region - much like the existing 4th and 5th seat - and for New Orleans and Baton Rouge each to anchor a seat.

He won the endorsement of the Vermilion Parish Police Jury in an early speech touting the plan.[33] Boustany's plan would keep Vermilion Parish, Lafayette and Lake Charles intact and in one district. Both he and Landry, who would likely face each other in 2012 to fight for one district, praised the idea of keeping the coastal area in a single seat for the sake of fishing and land concerns.

Opposing him was fellow GOP Congressman Jeff Landry, the freshman of the delegation. Landry proposed a single coastal district that would span 13 parishes. His proposal derived its justification from the shared culture and economic interests of the Louisiana shore. Backing up Landry were Plaquemine Parish President Billy Nungesser along with parish leadership in Houma and Thibodeaux, Landry's power bases. If Landry got his way, then Lake Charles and Shreveport would have likely been combined in another district, which would have likely caused conflict as the two areas are relatively distinct and agree they don't want to be in the same seat.

Black Caucus plan

Angling to draw a second majority-minority seat, Louisiana's Legislative Black Caucus hired a consultant ahead of the March 20, 2011 special session, during which the legislature redrew borders for its political seats, including the new Congressional districts.[34]

Although Maryland-based Tony Fairfax was explicitly hired to assess Congressional seats, he also looked at ways to draw new minority seats at the state legislative level, with particular attention to the Baton Rouge and Shreveport areas. Fairfax's work was very difficult, as the majority-minority seat at the time, the New Orleans based 2nd District, had to gain 260,000 people before a second such seat could even be considered.

Gallot plan

Democrat Rick Gallot put forth a plan, known as "1A," that would redraw an entirely new 4th Congressional District. Under Gallot's vision, the parishes of Acadia, Calcasieu, Cameron, Jeff Davis, Lafayette, St. Landry, Vermilion and parts of Evangeline, Iberia and St. Martin would make up a U.S. House seat.

In the state's south, Gallot offered two alternatives, HB3 and HB4. One of these alternatives put Reps. Landry and Boustany in a single district, and one combined Landry's seat with Bill Cassidy's Baton Rouge seat.[35]

His willingness to consider reducing the relative Congressional power of the state's north surprised some observers, given expectations that Gallot and Kostelka's northern seats and committee chairmanships would put such ideas out of the realm of the possible.[36] Instead, Gallot became the key figure in pushing for drawing northern Congressional seats that ran east-west. more or less mirroring the route of I-20. Such a seat would run from the Mississippi to the Texas borders and place the cities of Shreveport and Monroe in a single seat.

Gallot said he heard from numerous civic leaders in those two cities who felt that they share enough of a culture and have so many common interests that placing the two cities into one district would be sensible. However, the majority of the existing Congressional delegation and, as confirmed by his chief of staff, Governor Jindal, believed the historic trend of drawing the state's northern seats to run north-south ought to be preserved. The Congressmen in those two seats, Alexander and Fleming, were particularly keen on keeping the status quo. They said keeping the military bases in Fleming's seat and the agricultural lands in Alexander's seat separate overrided any combined interest of Shreveport and Monroe.[37] By extension, Alexander's status as the dean of the delegation gave any plan he supported added heft.

East-west districts gained support from members of the state House and from those eager to augment minority voting power, but Jindal's public support for the competing plan, after he had earlier said he would sit out redistricting, bode poorly for Gallot's hopes. If northern Louisiana kept two north-south seats, those districts would reach far into the south in order to have enough population. The New Orleans area was still almost entirely off-limits in the name of the VRA, and the minority 2nd District needed to pick up territory in Baton Rouge to meet the necessary proportions of black voters. Together, this meant the leftover southern area of the state had to be carved up in a way that couldn't avoid angering at least one of the region's population centers.

Each of the four Congressmen serving some portion of southern Louisiana made a variety of demands. Boustany insisted that Acadiana be left entirely intact. Cassidy was raging at plans to cut up Baton Rouge and its suburbs. Landry demanded that Terrebone and Lafourche be left not only intact, but that the two parishes end up in a shared Congressional district. And Scalise publicly vowed to fight any plan that split St. Tammany in any way.[38]

Kostelka plan

Republican Senator Bob Kostelka put forward a plan, Senate Bill 2 for the 2011 extraordinary session, that competed with Gallot's. Key to Kostelka's plan was preserving two Congressional seats in northern Louisiana, whereas Gallot would draw a single northern seat combining Shreveport and Monroe. However, Kostelka did find common ground with Gallot by putting Landry and Boustany into a single coastal district.

Kostelka's idea for handling the two seats in the north would have expanded them both south until they picked up enough population to meet the new ideal size, a plan that was supposedly drawn with input from Congressman Alexander and Fleming.[39] Although neither Congressman would confirm having had input into the map, they both, along with Cassidy and Boustany, endorsed the plan, arguing that northern Louisiana has cultural and economic homogeneity worth preserving.[40]

Within days, Reps. Richmond and Scalise also endorsed the plan, making Landry the only Congressman to still be opposing it. Senator Kostelka then scheduled a March 22, 2011 hearing on the 'consensus plan'.[41]

Kostelka soon added another major backer to his plan, when SB 2 became the only redistricting map at any level that Governor Jindal publicly supported.[42] Congressman Landry, however, challenged that, saying he had spoken to the Governor and that the reality was that Jindal only supports isolated parts of Kostelka's plan. "He told me that he hadn't endorsed Kostelka's plan, but he basically supports any plan that preserves two north Louisiana districts. He said he doesn't advocate splitting up Terrebonne and Lafourche parishes," said Landry.[43] Jindal's press secretary echoed that to a degree, saying the only thing the Governor is truly committed to is two northern districts and that Jindal has no opposition to the sort of single coastal district Landry wants.[44]

However, for ethnic Cajunsof southern Louisiana who felt political considerations had to follow their cultural history, Jindal's open support of any plan that threatened their home region of Acadiana caused uproar.[45]

Jackson plan

On Wednesday, March 30, 2011, Independent Representative Michael Jackson, filed HB 42, a Congressional map to create a second minority dominated seat, which necessarily meant major realignments in the entire state.[46] Jackson left the Democratic party a few years prior over complaints that the party failed to consider the political wishes of its black members adequately.

Portions of two dozen parishes, ranging from northern Ouachita and Morehouse southward Baton Rouge and extending west to Rapides and St. Landry, would make up the new seat, one that Jackson admits he filed on behalf of the Legislative Black Caucus. His new seat would have been 55 percent African-American, 42 percent white, and the remainder constituted by other minorities. If Jackson had his way, the existing minority seat, Cedric Richmond's 2nd District, would come in at about 58.5 percent black and 36.2 percent white. The remaining four seats would all have quite substantial white majorities, approaching 80 percent in some cases.

The most glaring problem was that it spanned the homes of two incumbent Republican Congressmen, John Fleming and Bill Cassidy, both of whom were working to preserve their seats as close to intact as they could. Lafayette Republican Nancy Landry led the charge against HB 42, noting that it cut Lafayette and all of Acadiana apart in order to pick up as many heavily black precincts as possible.[47]

Although Landry held that Acadiana's Creoles are part of the Cajun culture and are best represented by an intact Acadiana with a local representative, Democrat Michael Stagg, a member of the executive committee in Lafayette parish, also argued culture, saying blacks and Creoles in Lafayette and New Orleans do indeed have a shared culture that makes shared representation sensible. Landry shot back that Stagg's failed bid to unseat Congressman Boustany and the chance he might try again betrayed his agenda. Ultimately, Jackson's plan died in committee.

The extent to which existing borders were cut and every other guideline of redistricting sacrificed in order to draw enough blacks into the new seat to make it a viable majority-minority district would, had the map passed, almost certainly have been found in violation of U.S. v. Hays, which holds that while the VRA must be respected, districts cannot be drawn with race as the only consideration. Jackson, however, indicated his bill was focused on making a point and on serving as a first step in making a formal complaint to the federal government. In order to argue that race was playing an improper role in Louisiana's redistricting, Jackson and his allies needed to first demonstrate that race-based discrimination was actually occurring at some level. The angle that Jackson's thwarted bill is taking was to show that more minority districts theoretically could be drawn and that, as those districts weren't drawn, the process was biased.[48]

Tea Party map

On Friday, April 8, 2011, as the wheels came off redistricting, the Tea Party of Louisiana, an organized Tea Party group, offered what it called a "consensus map."

In a nod to Congressman Landry, one of 2010's Tea Party candidates, their map kept Terrebonne and Lafourche intact.

Bills moved out of committee

With the legislative week ending Friday, April 1, 2011, the House moved three bills out of committee and to debate on the floor:

  • HB 6, sponsored by Erich Ponti, a Baton Rouge Republican, would maintain two vertical seats in the state's north. The most popular bill with the committee, Ponti's bill would have not only kept Terrebonne and Lafourche together, it would have made them the regional power of a Congressional seat, instead cutting Jeff Davis and St. Tammany parishes. HB 6 passed 15-5.

At the end of the last full day of the session, HB 6 was the only Congressional bill left alive, with the Senate committee voting 5-4 to send it the floor for debate.[49]

  • HB 39, backed by Jerome Richard, an Independent from Thibodeaux, would draw two east-west seats in the north, while maintaining separate seats for Congressmen Fleming and Alexander. In addition to the "I-20" seat, Alexandria would anchor a central Louisiana seat.[50]. Terrebonne and Lafourche would remain together, but in a seat anchored by Baton Rouge. It passed 10-9, with support from Rick Gallot after his own plan failed.[51]

However, when HB 39 came before the full House, it failed by three votes. Richard was not shy about assigning blame for the bill's demise to Governor Jindal's involvement: "When the governor got involved,” Richard said, “that’s what killed my bill. He let it be known what he wanted."[52]

  • HB 43, with Republicans George Cromer and Cameron Henry, respectively of Slidell and New Orleans, would have also preserved the status quo in the north. Cromer would have split Terrebonne into a seat defined by the Lafayette-Calcasieu area, Charles Boustany's personal power base. Lafourche would then wind up sharing a Congressman with East Baton Rouge, a parish four times larger. HB 43 passed 11-8.

All three would have still combined Congressmen Landry and Boustany is a single seat that would have more of the latter's current territory.[53] However, an early version of HB 39 left open the chance that Landry could have held on to his seat by defeating Cassidy, not Boustany, for the privilege of representing Louisiana's central coast.[54]

Competing bills were killed by the same committee, including Representative Harrison's HB 8 (dead link), which focused on tying Louisiana's sugar came growing land together into a "sugar belt."[55]

The Senate moved a single bill, Neil Riser's HB 24. Riser's bill would have split Terrebonne and Lafourche, moving the former into a seat anchored by Lafayette and also including Calcasieu, meaning Terrebonne Parish would be a distant third in the voter rolls.

Lafourche would have been separated, seated in a district where Jefferson Parish would be the dominant voice, followed by St. Tammany and then by Lafourche.[56]

Floor votes on maps

When legislators reconvened on Monday, April 4, 2011, the two chambers took diverging paths on approving Congressional maps.[57]

Erich Ponti's HB 6, which initially kept Terrebonne and Lafourche entirely intact and in the same seat, was amended so that most of the two parishes were kept in one seat, but the northern edges of both were lopped off and included in the Baton Rouge based district. That version passed the House 62-37 on Monday, the 4th.[58]

Democrat Damon Baldone introduced a motion to send the bill back to committee, saying the floor amendments had altered it too much, but his attempt was fruitless. Governor Jindal and both of northern Louisiana's Congressmen backed the plan. Ponti's plan was really the only one to survive the week with some momentum to form the basis for a conference between the two chambers. While the conferees were not yet named, advocates for intact southern parishes could make it onto the team, giving Acadiana some hope.

In the Senate on the same day, Neil Riser's SB 24 was held over on a motion to reconsider in order to allow more time for studying that map's implications. Amendments added to the bill just before its introduction on the floor took some by surprise, and not in a positive way.[59]

Houma Senator Norby Chabert, a Republican, took Riser to task for what residents of the fought-over Terrebonne and Lafourche parishes see as a potentially devastating proposal to split them apart, asking, "Did you ever get any bad gumbo, any bad boudin, anything like that, left you a bad taste in your mouth with the Acadian people?."[60]

Riser adopted an amendment to his bill that copied much of SB 3's plan for southwest Louisiana and kept almost all of the area intact, save for a portion of Jefferson Davis Parish. Riser said he expected to spend the weekend of April 9 and 10 pulling votes together.[61]

Although legislators with strong Cajun interests continued to press for leaving the area under the representation of a single Congressman, HB 39 by Rep. Richards failed by three votes, the same margin as George Cromer's HB 43. Meanwhile, SB's 3 and 23 were also laid over the for the next day.

Nor did the plan Senator Elbert Guillory was running with the Louisiana Family Forum fare well, as the senate committee chose to delay it indefinitely, a sort of tacit death for a legislative bill.[62] Speaking publicly in the last days of the special session, Guillory told reporters, "I don't care about the horizontal versus the vertical as long as Acadiana, as long as Cajun Louisiana remains one solid entity."[63] Republican Senator Dan Morrish echoed that, saying of the north-south cultural impasse, ."..we don't share an economy, we don't share hurricanes...."

On Tuesday, April 5, 2011, Riser's plan was defeated 20-19, despite the backing of Bobby Jindal and both northern Congressmen.[64] The Senator, however, said he would ask his peers to take up the bill again. Riser chose not to bring the bill up for a second vote on Wednesday and instead set it as a special order for the Thursday session. For any members who didn't already understand the Governor's wishes on Riser's bill, a note was delivered to GOP Senators on Tuesday morning which read, “Please support Senate Bill 24 by Sen. (Neil) Riser. Follow the author’s lead on supporting or opposing any proposed amendments.”[65]

Also on the second day of the week, the Senate and Governmental Affairs Committee voted on House Speaker Jim Tucker's HB 1, passing it and setting it up for a final vote as early as April 7, 2011.[66]

The upper chamber also approved Lydia Jackson's SB 3 by a 23-15 vote, after Senate President Joel Chaisson introduced a series of amendments to the bill. SB 3 followed the "I-20" plan, in drawing an east-west seat in the state's north that allowed greater flexibility for preserving homogeneous areas in the south. Jackson's bill was similar to Rep. Gallot's HB 3, which died 10-9 in committee. But that meant it sat uneasily against the Erich Ponti-authored bill the House had sent over.[67]

SB 3 took another blow on April 6, 2011, when Governor Jindal publicly said he would veto any plan that did not maintain two vertical seats in the north with Monroe and Shreveport as their respective bases.[68] Later the same day, the House Committee killed the bill 10-9.[69] Sen. Jackson was still adamant that she did not consider the bill to be dead.[70]

On Tuesday, April 5, 2011, the House committee approved the Senate plan with the Chaisson amendments by a vote of 11-6, sending that bill on to the full House.[71]

One thing the House and Senate were agreeing on as the week progressed was that the southern shore of Lake Ponchartrain was going to lose representation, as it has already lost population. The number of state Senate seats fell from ten to nine while the House district count went from 20 to 19.

Voting hit a snag on Thursday, April 7, 2012, when House Speaker Jim Tucker pointed out a "glitch" in SB 1, Joel Chaisson's bill, regarding the borders around Rapides Parish.[72] While disputing the assertion that the map has problems, Sen. Chaisson did adjourn his chamber, and the House followed suit.[73] The House and Senate were in session for just under a hour and only five minutes, respectively, on Thursday, April 7, 2011.[74]

The next day, Chaisson prepared a memo that lambasted Tucker for "game playing." Moreover, the memo promised that the Senate would not bring the House map up for a vote unless the House passed the Senate plan "unamended."[75]

Lawmakers would not officially return to work until 2pm on Monday, April 11, 2011. The intervening weekend, however, promised to be full of maneuvering.[76] There was hope that Monday could see a heavily amended SB 24 come to a floor vote.

Finally, on the 11th of April, both chambers passed the other's bills for state level districts. By a margin of 43, the House voted 71-28 to pass SB 1, Senator Joel Chaisson's preferred plan. The Senate responded with a 30-9 passage of Speaker Tucker's HB 1.[77]

Half-hearted attempts were made in each chamber to amend to bill, but in both cases the bill were passed without changes. In the lower chamber, the Speaker clamped down on a motion to amend, later saying, "At this point in the process, we are going to agree to disagree and going to honor the Senate's request."

Chaisson returned the favor, remarking, "I thank the House for passing the Senate plan unamended. I think we need to pass theirs. It would be inappropriate for us to inject ourselves in to this process at this time. ... We should show the House the same courtesy they showed us."

In both chambers, most of the noes came from the Legislative Black Caucus, who maintained that the three new minority districts, two in the House and one in the Senate, were insufficient.

Any celebrations were premature, as Congressional redistricting remained on the table. Voting 10-9, the House killed Neil Riser's SB 24 in committee, leaving Erich Ponti's HB 6, awaiting the attention of the Senate committee, as the only Congressional map in play.[78]

Both chambers adjourned shortly after 4PM on Tuesday, April 12, 2011, triggering accusations that Speaker Tucker had closed up the House early in an attempt to force Jindal's wished-for 2012 Congressional map-making session. A brand new map the Senate crafted did not make it to the House before the latter adjourned, essentially killing the bill.

Congressional pressure to delay maps

Over the weekend of April 9 and 10, a majority of Louisiana's Congressional delegation began pressuring the legislature to delay redrawing their maps until 2012. Jindal's Chief of Staff, Timmy Teeppell, readily admitted he had asked for the letter following consultations with senior Congressman Rodney Alexander.[79]

Because of the state's staggered schedule for legislative and Congressional elections, it was a possibility to wait until the 2012 session. Excepting Democrat Cedric Richmond and Republican Charles Boustany, Louisiana's U.S. House members were all in favor of waiting on Congressional maps.[80]

As Jindal did not call the legislature's special session, he was not in a position to adjourn it without having a Congressional map resolved, though his veto and the influence he enjoyed with legislalture leaders gave the Congressional request some added weight.

Responding to a letter several Congressmen sent him, Governor Jindal questioned the wisdom of pushing back the work:

"I think the lack of a deadline right now is really preventing [lawmakers] from coming to a final deal. Since they know they've got ‘til next year, I think that's also making it a little harder to get to a final decision."[81]

Senate President Pro Tem Joel Robideaux also wrote to Jindal, seconding the idea of delaying Congressional maps:

"The new representatives will be in place and it seems to me they will be more reflective of what the population will be like and they ought to be the guys to decide who the congressmen are and what the congressional districts are shaped like."[82]

Through a spokesman, the Governor endorsed the idea but said it had to be a legislative decision, and at least some legislators were against the idea. Democratic Representative Chris Roy commented that, "To me it's like the tail wagging the dog. We just need to get it done."[83] Joe McPherson chimed in against a second extraordinary session in 2012, citing the cost.

Media op-eds took umbrage at the Congressmen and especially at the Governor for considering injecting themselves, and renewed the call for an independent commission.[84] The press was also openly cynical of arguments that such a delay was for the sake of voters.[85]

Observers identified one obvious ploy that played into the letter; the GOP held a reasonable belief that they would enjoy heftier legislative majorities after the 2011 elections.[86] Additionally, at a cost of $100,000 a day, special sessions aren't popular with taxpayers, and Jindal admitted that he would sign a bill if the legislature produced before the deadline.[87][88]

Legislators rebuffed both the Governor and the Congressmen in spending April 12 trying to settle on a Congressional plan. Lydia Jackson's plan, SB 3, killed once before on a 10-9 committee vote, came up again after Jackson requested the committee reconsider it. SB 3 was killed once again on a 10-9 committee vote, despite Joel Chaisson urging it be sent to full House for debate.[89] In the end, it was Jim Tucker, who reminded committee members they'd voted the bill down only days earlier, who won out, pointedly saying, "Don't be bullied into doing what is wrong."[90]

Congressional plan passes

Figure 5: This map shows the final, re-engrossed, version of HB 6 outlining Louisiana Congressional Districts after the 2010 census.

In the end, Fleming and Alexander won out, with the legislature passing a plan that kept their northern Louisiana seats largely intact and added southern land to balance out population among the new six districts. Surviving the House 65-34, its sponsor, Erich Ponti, said, "I passed it down to the red zone. It's up to Neil (Sen. Neil Riser, R-Columbia) to take it in."[91] The bill went on to a 25-13 vote in the Senate.

Governor Jindal announced he would sign the plan.[92] Specifically, Evangeline and St. Landry went to northern Congressional seats; the latter being split among three different seats.[93] Joel Chaisson has already announced he would run the bill during the regular session if the redistricting session ended without passage on some item.[94]

On the special session's final day, the Senate committee passed the map in Ponti's HB 6, the only remaining Congressional bill, 5-4.[95] Two votes, one to amend the plan so that Ouachita Parish in the northeast was split, and one to pass the bill out of committee, were tied 4-4, with committee chair Bob Kostelka casting the tie breaker in each.[96]

The amendment to split Ouachita came from Edwin Murray, and had plenty of opponents. Neil Riser, whose bill had been the Governor's declared favorite plan but had died nonetheless, spoke out against it. With the House either needing to concur on the bill as amended or go to conference, Speaker Jim Tucker indicated he would take the latter course and Governor Jindal signaled he would veto the bill with Murray's amendment in it. For his part, Kostelka spoke of the need to support the one bill still around and to move something out of committee.

Erich Ponti backed that assessment, telling fellow House members, "We are not happy, but this is the best we can do at the end of the day." Senator Riser, however, brought forth another amendment once the bill hit the full Senate floor, undoing the split in Oauchita and taking some of the heat off Kostelka, who arguably simply acted to push the bill forward.[97] As he told reports:

"Luckily, the gamble paid off. It came out just as we had hoped. This is what we wanted to do with (Riser's) amendment, and he did a tremendous job handling it. We planned to amend it on the (Senate) floor, and as a fail safe I had Ponti's blood oath that he would kill the bill in the House if we couldn't amend it.

With hopes of an east-west "I-20" district dead, Senator Joel Chaisson admitted he had backed such a plan but was coy about how much Jindal's oft-threatened veto had influenced the final map, saying "I don't know, and it really doesn't matter."

Members not quite as close to the bill displayed more candor. Norby Chabert, of Houma, one of the areas that lost the most heavily as the compromise took place, lamented, "I'm beginning to know what the Christians felt like in the Coliseum, surrounded by lions. They are carving me up like a Thanksgiving turkey, my people."

The full Senate voted 25-13 for the map and volleyed it back to House, who went along, 64-35.[98] A last-ditch plan by black Senators to add another minority seat fell by the wayside, 23-14.[99]

That was an early sign of trouble to come, and the Legislative Black Caucus made clear. In the words, of baton Rouge Democrat Regina Barrow, "By far, this is not over."[100]

Necessarily, Landry and Boustany were set up to run against own another. Lake Charles and Lafayette, Boustany's power base, made it into the new seat. Terrebonne and Lafourche, which Landry has relied on, did not, creating a 2012 GOP primary heavily favorable to Boustany. Steve Scalise's seat instead picked up most of those heavily fought-over twin parishes, with both parishes being split at the northern end, that land being given to Bill Cassidy. While Boustany expressed his satisfaction with the plan and praised state lawmakers for going to bat for Acadiana, the final map still meant parts of Cajun territory would spend at least the next decade in a Shreveport-based Congressional district, something that did not sit well with citizens of the state's south.[101] One op-ed described the concession to northern interests as, "two districts snaking so far from north to south that grim denizens of the Bible Belt would be yoked with jitterbugging Cajuns."[102]

On Thursday, April 14, 2011, Governor Jindal put pen to paper three times and signed the House, Senate, and Congressional maps.[103] Within two weeks, the maps and piles of detailed supporting statistics would be in the hands of the U.S. Justice Department.[104]

House Speaker Jim Tucker hired Washington, D.C.-based and Republican-leaning law firm Holtzman Vogel to attend to the maps as they came under Justice Department scrutiny. He confirmed that the firm had been retained, on an open-ended contract, to navigate Justice Department approval of the Congressional map and to push the Senate plan, which was approved by both legislative chambers, through.[105] Normally, the Clerk of the House would take that responsibility but the current clerk, Alfred "Butch" Speer, had advised lawmakers that creating a 30th minority seat, which did not ultimately happen, could be interpreted as Constitutional, setting up a possible conflict on interest.[106]

Representative Gallot complained of the selection, saying he had not been consulted and claiming Holtzman Vogel had been providing counsel to Louisiana Republicans when maps were still being debated, giving the firm a similar conflict on interest to Speer. House Minority Leader John Bel Edwards went further, saying that Speer had provided legal advice in open debates, while Holtzman Vogel had acted as a private adviser.

Gallot also got in a dig at the diligence that had gone into selecting the law firm. While Jim Tucker insisted he had interviewed several firms before making a choice, Gallot reminded people that that speaker had gotten nine bids from caterers when the contract for the House cafeteria had come up, quipping, "Is our food in the cafeteria more important than our compliance with the Voting Rights Act?"[107]


No one party achieved everything it wanted, and there were winners and losers across the state, but the biggest victories and sacrifices were concentrated regionally.[108] On April 21, 2011, Speaker Tucker announced the maps had been officially transmitted to the Justice Department.[109]

The two Congressmen most looked-to were Boustany and Landry in the south. The former was pleased when HB 6 left his Lafayette and St. Charles bases intact. Jeff Landry, as expected, saw his home territory added to Steve Scalise's seat and had to face a primary, most likely against Boustany, if he wanted to remain in Congress.

His first comments on the maps refused to make a firm commitment to seeking a second term, noting that "The ink ain't even dry (on the legislation)...There's not a seat in Congress that belongs to any congressman...The seat belongs to the people."[110]

Along with Democrat Cedric Richmond, Boustany was the only other member of Louisiana's Congressional delegation who declined to ask Governor Jindal to for a second special session in 2012 to handle Congressional maps. His prepared statement on the outcome characterized the ability of the legislature to get a bill though as the best outcome for voters.

Nationally, Landry was seen as the biggest loser in the plan. Only 24 percent of current territory remains in the new seat and he would need to move to avoid a primary against Boustany. The Washington Post ranked him as the most vulnerable incumbent out of the redistricting process to date and some writers characterized the process as tantamount to an overt effort to force Landry out.[111]

His lack of seniority and his Tea Party base's antipathy to making alliances with party line GOP king-makers soon became a focus of the national media, who noted that Louisiana's Republicans had no choice but "to eat one of their own" while still remarking on the thoroughness with which Landry was cut loose.[112] The emerging agreement seemed to be that, "Landry did about as bad as he can do. He lost almost everything but his home."

Congressmen who had signed the open letter to Jindal - not necessarily a move that played well in the press or among the legislators who were Constitutionally charged with redistricting - downplayed the entire episode. Republican Rodney Alexander dismissed it as ."..just a letter. It wasn't worth the paper it was written on," and hinted the entire aim in writing it had been to force legislators' hand.

Such an interpretation would defend the Republicans in the Congressional delegation against accusations that they really did want to push redistricting back until after the 2011 legislative elections, when the GOP was expected to pick up several seats in each chamber, for reasons of personal ambition, though it raised the new idea of the letter as less-than forthright stunt.

According to the Southern Political Report, there were also rumors that Jindal had requested the letter in order to take heat off legislative Republicans if the special session ran out without a plan.[113]

Louisianans with lower profiles, and thus less need to guard their comments, were blunt about the final map. The op-ed page of a Bayou area newspaper raged:[114]

"If the congressional realignment is accepted, it will be a major defeat for the fastest growing region of the state...The new congressional districts are gerrymandered to a maximum degree and are not geographically compact....Clearly, the legislature was influenced by the strong arm tactics of the Governor and the long-serving members of Congress and made a decision that was not based on what is best for the people of Louisiana, but what serves the interests of entrenched politicians."

In another media assessment, it had been made obvious to voters that the Congressional delegation's appearance of working as a team was a thin veneer and the legislature's inability to stand up the Governor was embarrassing.[115]

Residents of the shore parishes were irate, reacting with disbelief and disgust. One of their representatives, Houma Democrat Damon Baldone, quickly introduced a bill to reverse the changes to Lafourche and Terrebonne. His HB 525 (dead link) takes advantage of that fact that Congressional maps need not be delivered to the Justice Department until the middle of 2012, essentially doing the same thing the letter sent to Jindal would have accomplished, but for different reasons.[116]

Meanwhile, citizens claimed legislative leaders had promised to keep their counties intact before the process began and used such terms as, "an abomination," a "shellacking," and cutting "right through the middle of our heart."[117]

At least two lawmakers were also considering regular session bills to create independent commissions. In the Senate, Democrat Dan Claitor, whose Baton Rouge home was chopped into three Congressional seats, promised to run such a bill. House Republican Jerome "Dee" Richard, sponsor of a failed redistricting bill and a resident of Thibodaux, perhaps the most cut apart part of the state, said he was considering one.

Republican Representative John Schroder did sponsor a bill, HB 405, to create an independent commission.[118] In all, 20 bills with some connection to redistricting were filed for the regular session, though many of them were placeholder bill, written in anticipation of some or all of the maps being rejected.[119] Media support for a change of some sort was strong.[120]

The new maps also opened up some previously unconsidered primary possibilities. Cedric Richmond, for example, could face an intra-party race from an unknown; the result of drawing bizarre district lines in order to meet VRA requirements at all costs added much new territory - and many new black Democrats - to his turf.

Bill Cassidy also won out, shoring up the red flavor of his seat by giving nearly all the black voters he had over the 2nd in order to maintain the majority-minority numbers there.[121]

One area where a Justice Department rejection could have found ground went back to the negotiations over other maps that came out of committee; back when Rick Gallot had amended the House bill to create a new minority district around Shreveport, Jim Tucker had openly backed the such an amendment. However, once the amended bill made it onto the floor, Tucker led other Republicans in supporting the competing Seabaugh Amendment, which stripped Gallot's Amendment right back out.[122]

In an early op-ed, the Election Law Center mused that the mess surrounding Louisiana's redistricting could make the case ripe for Justice Department rejection and eventual decision in the U.S. District Courts.[123]

Justice Department review

As the maps moved into the Voting Rights Act compliance stage, federal attorneys for the Justice Department interviewed the lawmakers who had prepared the maps.[124] Reportedly, the Justice Department did not provide any questions in advance.

Lest there be any doubt where interests aligned with the Democratic party came down on the matter, the United States Department of Justice received a joint letter from the NAACP, the Legislative Black Caucus, and the Urban League urging him to reject Louisiana's map.[125] The objection was centered on the possibility of a majority-minority seat in Shreveport, something the maps had not done.[126]

Back in Louisiana, House Speaker Tucker reiterated his certainty that the map would pass muster and his confidence in the legislature's ability to make any fixes that might be ordered.[127]

By June, Louisiana's plight before the DOJ had garnered national attention, where it won the distinction of being America's test case for the Voting Rights Act under a Democratic presidency. Alan Seabaugh spoke for Pelican Republicans when he told The Washington Post, "My concern is less with a racial motivation than it is with a political party motivation." Washington officials understood fully the challenge in that statement and insisted that politics were never a consideration in weighing maps.[128]

Seabaugh's doubts about the potential abuses in the VRA were countered by residents of one of the most fought over districts, around Shreveport, who wrote, "The fact that we still have people who have these thoughts in their hearts, in their minds, and give vent to them and send them off to justify their position, it shows me that the Voting Rights Act is not just relevant but absolutely necessary."[129]

Justice Department officials set June 20, 2011 as a tentative date to give decision to Louisiana, which put added pressure on the legislature. Set to adjourn sine die on June 23, 2011, not hearing the outcome for their redistricting plan until the June 20, 2011 would leave the lawmakers no time to revise boundaries.[130] To remedy that, Jim Tucker announced he would host a private conference call to see if there were any way to speed up the process.

At the same time, legislators prepared 'placeholder' bills if their bills were rejected or if changes were mandated. SB170 passed committee 4-3, leaving it primed for floor debate if needed. The bill was essentially a carbon copy of the plan the special session passed in the spring.[131]

Other redistricting bills

The battle over Terrebonne and Lafourche was not yet over. Lawmakers for those cities ensured as much in introducing a bill to tweak the Congressional redistricting map to prevent the two parishes from being split.[132] HB 525, sponsored by Damon Baldone, a Houma Democrat, would reunite the two and place both of them in Bill Cassidy's 3rd Congressional District. It was assigned to the House and Government Affairs Committee, which scheduled debate for June 8, 2011. That day, it was involuntarily deferred; the committee's 13-16 vote was a decisive rejection.[133]

DOJ approval

On August 1, 2011, Louisiana's Congressional redistricting map received pre-clearance from the U.S. Department of Justice. However, Voting Rights Act approval does not prevent lawsuits challenging the plans.[134]

Legislative maps

State population changes meant numerous districts failed to hew closely enough to 'ideal' proportions and would have to get substantial attention. Specifically, four of eight education districts, two of five public service districts, and five of seven Supreme Court seats were more than 10 percent away, either over or under, from the ideal district size. State legislative seats were also askew; northern Louisiana seats tended to be above the ideal population mark while southern districts came in below where they should be.

As a state with term-limits, state level redistricting means some incumbents take to the process with an eye on the higher offices to which they hope to ascend. It can also mean particular seats lose a forceful voice when their term-limited representative sees less reason to fight for preserving the seat.[135]

A key question in redrawing legislative seats, some of which were almost unimaginably contorted going into 2011, was that of settling on drawing either compact single-member districts that would allow residents to have "our Senator" and "our Representative" or regional multi-parish seats that would give any single Louisianian multiple lawmakers.[136]

WDSU news report on April 13, 2011 on the end of the special session.

New Orleans and Lake Ponchartrain saw support for compact districts, a logical preference given the substantial differences among parishes and New Orleans' desire to have resident legislators who understand the city's plight. It is often the elected officials who support regionalized plans, sometimes because they reside in areas that have lost too much population to remain intact.

When the special session opened on March 20, 2011, legislators had a narrow three-week window to complete their work. By law, they could not address redistricting during the regular session that began April 23, 2011. Those involved widely agreed on the importance of race - specifically, the importance of preserving majority-minority districts. Given that Louisiana was hoping to win pre-approval from the Justice Department rather than have to make court ordered changes, legislators looked to push hard to increase the number of majority-minority seats.[137]

In order to allow for the autumn 2011 elections, legislative maps had not only to be passed, but had to also be enacted by August 29, 2011.[138] House Chair Gallot and Senate Chair Kostelka pledged to work together to that end,[139] something also urged by Governor Jindal in his opening address to the special session.[140][141][142]

More cynical commentators speculated that the session could deteriorate into either a north versus south battle for turf or a free-for-all in which incumbents seek easy re-elections and term-limited politicians ease their paths to higher office.[143][144] Observers considering the potential for a regional squabble noted that the legislative leadership hailed from the north, but there might be enough votes in the south to block a plan - if diverse southern Louisianian lawmakers could find common ground long enough to build a consensus.[145]

House plan

Figure 4: This map shows the 1B Draft map for Louisiana House Districts after the 2010 census.
Figure 6: This map shows the final, re-engrossed, version of HB 1 outlining Louisiana State House Districts after the 2010 census.

House Speaker Jim Tucker released his first draft of a House map, HB1, on Friday, March 18, 2011, one that proposed trimming the size of the New Orleans delegation from 25 members to 19, a nod to the remarkable population loss the region saw.[146] Some of those lost seats would move to the river shore and the areas north of New Orleans.[147] The Speaker's plan also calls for at least three sets of incumbents to run against one another.[148]

Shortly after making his presentation, Tucker, a Terrytown Republican, admitted, "Nobody's happy."[149] The map was, though, presented as a jumping off point with plenty of room for modifications and negotiations. In fact, so many amendments were submitted that the initial hearing to review the map had to be pushed back.[150]

Tucker's plan grew Louisiana's majority non-white districts from 27 to 29, something that was still not enough in the eyes of the Legislative Black Caucus, whose members pushed for 30 majority-minority seats. Redistricting chair Rick Gallot went head-to-head with Tucker in pushing for that extra majority-minority seat, a seat Gallot would have liked to place in Caddo Parish and one he said was a 'must' if Louisianans hope to have the maps approved by the Justice Department.[151] Gallot's "1A" plan enjoyed the support of, among others, Congressman Boustnay, who made an early point of stopping by the state Capitol to keep abreast of redistricting work.[152]

On Wednesday, March 23, 2011, the first vote came, when the Committee on House and Governmental Affairs voted 10-9 to approve an amendment to Tucker's HB 1 offered by Gallot, thereby creating a 30th minority district in the Louisiana state House.[153] In the same meeting, two other amendments were shot down 14-5.

While the 30th seat plan made it out of Committee, Republican Alan Seabaugh sponsored an amendment to remove it from the bill, one that passed 57-46 on a largely partisan vote taken March 28, 2011.[154] Of the vote, Legislative Black Caucus Chair Pat Smith intoned, “You will be going to court. That is an assurance.” Her personal preference was to retain the 30th minority seat and add more, pushing the state to 33 minority seats.

However, having more minority seats wouldn't have been all good news for individual Democrats. Most at risk if the 30th seat survives is Shreveport Representative Barbara Norton, whose seat was 88.7 percent African American before the redistricting process. She supported Seabaugh's amendment and noted, "I don’t have a problem with a minority district. I oppose cutting and gutting me to do it." Whether or not Norton and Seabaugh's bid to protect their seats would trigger the Justice Department's disapproval remained to be seen.[155]

Another amendment offered the same day, from Democrat Chris Roy, required two Republicans in the north to run against one another. It passed 51-48, but was soon followed by a motion to undo, which was set for debate on Tuesday, March 29, 2011.

On that day, the House ultimately passed HB 1, 70-28, providing three new seats, one majority-minority, in the Baton Rouge area. Overall, there were two new majority-minority House seats in Louisiana under the plan, one less than what some black lawmakers wanted. Both Rick Gallot and Pat Smith warned the plan would likely be rejected by the Justice Department and that the process would end up in the courts. Of the lawmakers who cast 'no' votes, most were either black Democrats or members of the Republican delegation with Jefferson Parish seats, the two groups who most felt HB 1 failed to consider them.[156][157]

The Senate originally planned to take up HB 1 on Thursday, April 7, 2011, a plan that fell by the wayside when the entire legislature abruptly adjourned until Monday, April 11.

DOJ approval

On June 20, 2011, the Department of Justice granted approval to the new House map. However, legal challenges were still possible. Speaker Jim Tucker (R) said, "this is absolutely historic," in referring to the fact that no House plan has ever received pre-clearance from the Department of Justice.[158]

Senate Plan

Figure 7: This map shows the Louisiana Senate districts after the 2010 census.

Senate President Joel Chaisson's plan, filed as Senate Bill 1 (dead link), echoed the House plan in that it also suggested cutting New Orleans area Senate seats and moving them north, to parishes that gained population.[159] Chaisson's plan also left open the possibility of drawing regional seats that would span multiple parishes. Majority-minority districts would grow to 11, a gain of one seat over the previous map.

Other Senators submitted plans that had at least the commonality of accepting the need to add another majority-minority district. Robert Marionneaux, Jr, a Livonia Democrat, submitted SB22 (dead link), with the minority district in central Louisiana, much like Chaisson's bill. SB25 (dead link), sponsored by Democrat Joe McPherson, set the minority seat in the River Parishes, south of Baton Rouge, the same area where Chaisson would have a second new minority seat.[160]

At the same time the House was fighting over the precise number of minority seats, the Senate was embattled over just where to put a proposed new Senate seat. After three days of debate, the divisive issue remained what to do with the parishes of Terrebonne and Lafourche, with Democrats pushing to keep them together in whatever Senate plan passed. Of two bills before the Senate and Governmental Affairs Committee, Lydia Jackson's SB3 (dead link) and Rob Marionneaux's SB23 (dead link), both would meet that goal. However, four Republicans voted against them in committee on March 28, 2011, not killing the bills but preventing them from going to floor. As a result, the issue remained in committee for more debate.[161]

Among Republican bills, leading the pack in March 2011 seemed to be SB24 (dead link), introduced by Neil Riser. A potential Congressional map, Riser's plan split Terrebonne and Lafourche at both the state Senate and Congressional levels. Congressmen Boustany and Landry, who otherwise had few points of agreement, were both opposed. SB 24 passed out of committee, 4-3, on March 29, 2011.[162]

One key development of the otherwise fruitless Senate deliberations was the softening of several Congressmen on the configuration of Louisiana's northern seats. Boustany and Landry both testified they no longer cared what the north looked like so long as the southern areas they represented remained intact. A third member, Bill Cassidy, declined to say whether or not he still had a preference for the state's northern half.[163]

On Tuesday, March 29, 2011, Senate Bill 1 did pass, 27-12. The plan did take seats away from New Orleans, but it also added two new majority black districts, one in the river parishes and one in the north. All eight black Democrats in the Senate voted against it, arguing it wouldn't be enough to survive Justice Department scrutiny.[164] The 'no' votes, which included some Republicans crossing the aisle, came almost entirely from lawmakers whose own districts would be the most impacted by the new seats. Still, some observers argued the GOP had sold itself short and speculated on possible reasons.[165]

The pitched debate before the bill came to a vote highlighted several issues that could have come back to derail legislators's plans if the Justice Department disliked the map. Black lawmakers held the new minority seats weren't compact enough to meet VRA guidelines and allegded that Kostelka had drawn the new seats in a manner that protect incumbents. Kostelka admitted he had sought to avoid having incumbents face one another, but not at the expense of VRA-compliance. Lest anyone charge racism, he also quoted extensively from Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech on the Senate floor.

Passing one bill did not mean there were not any more bills to debate. For example, Elbert Guillory's much delayed SB 27 (dead link) also was a topic of debate. Ostensibly due to the inability of government computers to read the mapping program Guillory used, the bill was introduced March 22, 2011, but did not receive a committee hearing until April 4, 2011. Guillory, however, believed Senate leadership and top adminsitrative staffers did not like the bill and have created obstacles.

SB 27 would have made substantially more changes than Chaisson's bill, including collapsing East New Orleans and the lower 9th Ward into a single seat.[166] It would have also made Guillory's St. Landry seat and that of Rob Marionneaux into minority seats, in addition to creating a brand new minority seat in Caddo Parish. Ultimately, SB 27 would draw 12 minority seats to SB 1's 11.[167]

Anticipating the resistance to any map that could harm New Orleans incumbents, despite the population loss, Guillory built up an alliance with the conservative Louisiana Family Forum (LFF), whose president, Gene Mills, testified on the maps. The argument both Guillory and the LFF made is that all Louisianians, minorites included, would be better off under a plan that recognized demographic realities and got rid of seats that no longer had adequate population, even if those were in minority areas.

DOJ approval

The state Senate redistricting map received pre-clearance from the Department of Justice on Wednesday, June 29, 2011. The approval cleared the state to hold its 2011 legislative elections as scheduled.[168]

Other districts

Aside from Congressional and legislative seats, several other offices came under the extraordinary session's portfolio. Two of them were dealt with quickly at the end of March 2011.

The Board of Elementary and secondary Education (BESE) and the Public Services Commission (PSC) are each divided into districts across the state. The House passed new maps for both with no questions and almost no resistance. BESE maps, for eight elected district officers, were drawn under HB 2 and passed the House 97-2. PSC maps passed 99-0. In all, it took less than five minutes to approve both plans and send them on to the Senate.[169] BESE districts made it to the House floor and passed at the end of April.[170][171] Governor Jindal signed HB 519, for BESE district, on May 31, 2011.[172]

In the 72-hour window before the special session had to adjourn, House Speaker Jim Tucker was candid that the Louisiana Supreme Court districts simply wouldn't be handled in 2011:

"We're not going to move the court bills. We could not come to a consensus with the courts or the Senate, so we're going to leave those alone."[173]

Tucker was the only legislator who actually introduced any bills concerned with redistricting the Courts, which had not been addressed in years. The Appellate Courts were last redistricted in 1980. The Supreme Court was marginally better having been redrawn in 1997. His HB 31 (dead link) and HB 32 (dead link), addressed, respectively, the Courts of Appeal and the State Supreme Court. Both were assigned to the House & Governmental Affairs Committee in the first days of the special session, with no further action.

This left Louisianians in lopsided court districts that ran from 438,000 to 791,000 residents, problematic but technically legal as court districts aren't bound by "one man, one vote." Conversely, Tucker's bills or some other approach to court districts could have come up in the 2011 regular session, as such boundaries are not legally restricted to a special redistricting session.

The BESE map finally came back up on the final day of the session with two hours left, by which too many legislators had left in order to resolve a conference committee report on borders of eight particular districts. Jindal declared that he would not sign off on it until the second of June.[174] The PSC map had finally squeaked through on Monday, April 11, 2011, and was formally submitted to the Justice Department at the end of May.[175]

Input from elected officials

Figure 1: This map shows the Louisiana Congressional Districts after the 2000 census.

Negotiations on where to cut a seat

Intrastate tensions continued as the debate over whether the state's North or South would absorb the loss of a District wore on in the legislature. Although the state was confident in its ability to honor the VRA requirement to have at least one District where a racial minority made up the majority of the population, the various plans that could have met that stipulation still differed significantly. A plan that put huge black populations into one District would all but guarantee the election of a minority for that House seat while meaning the surrounding Districts would lean conservative. It was also possible to draw multiple seats with a smaller black majority and weaken Republican election hopes across a broad area.[176]

However, with the publication of the detailed information from the Census Bureau, it became increasingly obvious that the state's South would lose at both the Congressional and legislative levels.[177] Fellow Republicans Jeff Landry and Charles Boustany seemed the most likely candidates to face off in a reduced arena.[178]

The 2nd District, Louisiana's VRA seat and its lone Democratic member in the House of Representatives, was in fact the smallest population district in the United States after detailed numbers came out.[179]

At a more community-focused level, at least one city, Shreveport, questioned the accuracy of the Census count for the city and considered appealing to the Census Bureau after detailed population figures were much lower than anticipated.[180]

Louisiana's Republican Governor, Bobby Jindal, facing re-election in 2011, stated he would continue the traditional role of the state's executive as being publicly neutral and providing advice privately only when asked.[181][182][183]

Compliance with Voting Rights Act

After the 2010 Census results were announced, Louisiana's minority population was still high - 30 percent of the state's population was black - but they had moved within the state. Prior to Katrina's devastation, Orleans Parish was home to the largest black population with Jefferson Parish, the city's western suburbs, coming in second.

Going into the 2011 redistricting process, Baton Rouge had moved ahead of both parishes in terms of the percentage of the population identifying as black. The numbers now sat at 59.88 percent black residents of Orleans Parish, 26.90 percent for Jefferson, 46.08 percent for East Baton Rouge, and 37.5 percent for West Baton Rouge.

Two possibilities arose, that of a so-called "bar-bell" district that would encompass the densest concentrations of black voters in Orleans and Baton Rouge parishes, connected by a sliver of territory along the interstate to meet the requirement for continuous districts, and that of two separate districts. The former would have enough black voters to be called a majority-minority district, but bar-bell districts have been previously rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court. The latter would allow for two minority-influence districts, yet would leave open legal arguments that the minority population was not high enough.[184]

The second district, covering metropolitan New Orleans and the only seat in Louisiana held be a Democrat at the time, looked safe to retain its shape. As a majority black seat, agreeing to leave it intact and draw the other seats around it was a step toward ensuring the Justice Department would sign off on Louisiana's plan.[185]

Role of the Congressional delegation

Just as the Census delivered detailed data sets to Louisiana, the state's Congressional delegation met and agreed upon their own version of a Congressional map, one they shared with state's legislators.[186] Ultimately, that's where the power rests and Baton Rouge was quick to assert its autonomy in the process, expressing gratitude for the cooperation and input from the state's Congressmen while insisting the legislature would draw the maps.

All seven of Louisiana's U.S. House members, set to decrease to six in 2012, theoretically agreed on preserving the 5th District in the state's north-central region, which was the seat held by Louisiana's senior congressman. Complying with the VRA was also high on the priority list.[187] By tradition, the Louisiana House delegation draws a map and submits it to the state legislature as a starting point. Also traditionally, it is the privilege of the longest serving congressperson to convene that meeting.[188]

The general theme of the Congressional delegation's plan would place Charles Boustany and Jeff Landry, both Republicans then representing coastal residents in southern Louisiana, into one district, where the more senior Boustany would be slightly favored by the population.[189] Additionally, Jindal did say he would like to see the Congressional delegation prepare and present their own plan for legislative consideration.

Landry's increasingly precarious hopes for re-election led him to be the odd man out on the Congressional plan. When Boustany, in anticipation of a 2012 campaign on Landry's old turf, began holding meetings in the latter's district, Landry was openly upset.[190] Landry's interests lay in securing a single district spanning the entire coastline, a plan publicly backed by the same Tea Party groups who were key in electing him.[191]

By the home stretch of the legislature's special session, the image of a largely unified Congressional bloc had collapsed. While the lone Democrat, Cedric Richmond, remained more or less quiet, Republicans were nearly brawling. Regional interests had surmounted party interests and the two northern Congressmen, Fleming and Alexander, bristled at Boustany's bid to protect his Acadiana seat. John Fleming charged that Boustany, his senior by two terms, was willing to rip northern seats that are currently safe for the GOP apart in order to make his one southern seat "perfect." Fleming also commented that Boustnay's behavior was risking handing the majority in the U.S. House back to Democrats.

Boustany responded with an open letter, which read, "The Louisiana Legislature must hear the voices of the people of Lafayette, Calcasieu, Acadia, Jeff Davis, Vermilion and Cameron and maintain the integrity of the Calcasieu-Lafayette Corridor. At every hearing, the people have asked that the Southwest coastal region remain intact. This is about the rice farmers in Acadia, the sugarcane growers of Iberia, and the ports and energy producers along the coast. Economically and culturally, there is no question the ties in this region are strong."[192]

The other northern Congressman, Rodney Alexander, could have likely held the seat proposed for him under the Senate bill, with its east-west northern seat. However, Fleming's new seat would see a marked rise in black residents, who could give much support to a Democratic challenger, something Fleming, who had seen uncomfortably narrow re-election numbers, wanted to avoid.[193]

Governor Jindal's involvement

Governor Jindal's address at the opening of the extraordinary sesion.

By the end of March 2011, Governor Bobby Jindal was playing an active role in redistricting, publicly expressing preference for Congressional plans that preserved two seats in northern Louisiana and delegating top staff to meet with Republican legislators, a tactic that ultimately left some wondering if Jindal's efforts would backfire.[194]

One paper reported that Jindal had shown up to the House's March 20, 2011 session, walking down the center aisle and making a point of not shaking hand with Rep. Gallot.[195]

On March 28, 2011, the governor's chief of staff and executive counsel met privately with GOP leadership in a session that participants later described as being dedicated to encouraging Republicans to "hang together" and to avoid drawing maps that would force GOP incumbents to run against one another.

Timmy Teepell, Jindal's chief of staff, backed a House map with 29 rather than 30 minority seats, arguing that diluting black voters to create a new minority district would actually weaken the ability of black voters to impact politics.

The GOP did indeed move on that issue, with Rep. Alan Seabaugh sponsoring an amendment to strip the redistricting bill of the 30th minority seat. The key concern Republicans had was that the proposed 30th seat would be placed in Shreveport, a city where Seabaugh and Democrat Barbara Norton both had their seats - forcing the two into uphill battles or even pitting Seabaugh against fellow Republican Richard Burford if either one wanted to remain in the House.

House Redistricting Chair Rick Gallot decried Teepell's comments that his plan would cost Rep. Norton her seat, characterizing the ideas as "ridiculous." Norton herself said she might have made a passing comment to Jindal's staff about concern for her seat, but that she did not know Teepell.[196]

Democrats reacted angrily, pointing to Jindal's public statements at the beginning in 2011 to the effect that he would play a minimal role in redistricting and noting that the House Democratic Caucus was meeting in the next room at the same time Jindal's aides were at the capitol to meet with Republicans. Caucus Chair John Bel Edwards said,, "They didn't ask to come see the Democratic caucus, which was meeting across the hall at exactly the same time, and we gladly would have welcomed them."[197]

Pat Smith, Chair of the Legislative Black Caucus, chimed in as well, saying the LBC membership was in consensus in creating as many minority seats as possible and that if Jindal's office thought such a plan was risking diluting minority political strength, the Governor should have asked to meet with LBC leadership.

As public criticism of the gubernatorial about-face mounted, Jindal clarified his actions by reminding observers he would have to decide on signing or vetoing the bill that reached him and that, as such, he should be able to offer suggestions.[198] On the other side of the argument, op-eds urged citizens to remind Jindal that he was also obligated by his office to listen to citizen concerns.[199]

The legislative branch was far from immune to criticism itself, especially after leaders essentially admitted they were focusing on the twin goals of protecting incumbents and satisfying the federal government without even listing the concerns of voters as a factor.[200][201] Increasingly harsh public commentary also took lawmakers to task for excessive focus on race and misuse of the VRA as a veil for gerrymandering.[202]

The Governor's role took on heightened visibility on April 6, 2011 when Jindal's office released a statement guaranteeing a gubernatorial veto for any plan that did not include two vertical Congressional districts in the state's north, with Monroe and Shreveport each serving as an anchor. Such a plan would have been a continuation of tradition and the statement said as much. However, it would have essentially guaranteed that Terrebonne and Lefourche Parishes would have been split, ending a two century tradition of keeping the two parishes in one Congressional district. It also caused Democratic legislators to strike back with strong words.

As the statement was passed around a committee hearing in the House, Rep. Gallot left no doubt to his feelings, saying, "I would have appreciated him saying back in January that he would decide congressional redistricting. We could have saved a tremendous amount of money traveling the state and telling citizens that their input mattered."[203]

The effective promise to kill any plan involving an I-20 corridor district or favoring the southern half of the state led to rumors that Congressional mapping might be delayed until the start of 2012. Legislative mapping needed to be finished in early 2011 for off-year elections to go forward, but federal maps could have at least theoretically been held off until the following legislative session.[204]

Legislative pushback

At least on the surface, the theme of lawmkers' reaction to Jindal's growing involvement was one of intentionally public rebukes. When Jindal publicly favored Bob Kostelka' SB 2, it died quickly in committee. The same committee quickly sent SB 3 and SB 24, bills Jindal had not liked, to the floor.

The Governor countered by sending notes to GOP legislators asking them to back SB 24 without amendments. SB 24, Neil Riser's plan, instead failed by a single vote. Five Republicans voted against it in a nod to regional identity.

The north-south split fired back at Jindal's intentions when southern GOP members voted for SB 3, essentially a Democratic plan, because it protected the Acadiana regions. It was when SB 3 passed the Senate and went to the House that Jindal raised the stakes and threatened to veto any plan with an east-west seat in the state's north. By then, HB 6, Erich Ponti's plan and Jindal best remaining hope, was in the Senate, but that had not come to be without some resistance to gubernatorial influence.

HB 6 emerged as the only north-south plan, compared to HB 39 and HB 43, which both drew seats along the I-20 corridor. However, passing it took immense partisan pressure and the direct involvement of businesses, including one of Louisiana's only Fortune 500 companies, which stood to lose under a revised northern map.

At one point, SB 3 looked to be dead, but its backer, Lydia Jackson, managed to revive it with Congressional help. Southern Louisiana Republicans in the U.S. House, especially Charles Boustany, broke rank entirely with the party and ran a regional campaign to pass a map that left the Bayou intact. Within the party, that led to bitter accusations from Governor Jindal and Congressman John Fleming that Boustany was willing to hand a vote to Nancy Pelosi.[205] Boustany came under fire in Washington, D.C., and the entire Louisiana legislature adjourned to sort things out.

It was then that the Congressional letter asking for a year long postponement came out and, days later, a map did pass.

The Senate committee had amended HB 6 to the point that it was nearly a copy of SB 23 and had been redrawn to have east-west districts. Bob Kostelka cast the tie breaking vote to push it out of committee, taking an ultimately successful gamble that it would again be amended, this time on the floor, to move it back to a north-south aligned map. In the end, what passed looked almost exactly like SB 2.

Non-government reports on redistricting

Rose Report

Before either the release of Census data or the 2010 midterms, the Rose Institute of State and Local Government at Claremont-McKenna College analyzed Louisiana's Congressional seats, with an eye toward assessing their fate in 2011.[206] At that time, the state's loss of a seat was already widely predicted and so the report paid significant attention to how that loss would be handled. Key findings included:

  • Republicans could have been amenable to absorbing part of the liberal 2nd District into the 1st, which is conservative enough to take the new voters and still remain a Republican-leaning seat. In the same scenario, Democrats would prefer adding to the 1st from the moderately conservative 6th, a way to safeguard the 2nd.
  • The 2nd was hardest hit by Katrina; demographic changes caused by the population exodus increased the percentage of whites. In order to be VRA complaint, the 2nd could not have expanded north into the 1st, as that would mean picking up even more white residents. It could have, however, expanded into the 3rd or be drawn to include Baton Rouge. Given that Republican Joseph Cao lost the seat in the Republican wave year of 2010, the GOP has little incentive, outside the VRA, to keep the district as it is.
  • The 3rd, a conservative rural seat, ousted Democrat Charlie Melancon in 2010. His replacement, freshman Jeff Landry, faced the prospect of spending only one term in Congress if the legislature decided to carve the district up. It lost population and would need to expand to remain a seat. Its borders gave Republicans lots of options to add land if they choose to, but Democrats could only keep the 3rd and increase the number of traditionally Democratic voters if they cut into New Orleans, which observers considered a highly unlikely scenario.
  • The 4th, in the state's north, was heavily Republican and surrounded by conservative territory, meaning there was no way to give it a Democratic tilt without completely redrawing the state. It needed to add population, which would have likely come from the 5th or the 6th.
  • Northern Louisiana's other seat, the 5th, also needed to pick up population. Theoretically, it could become a Democrat-favoring district, but the need to keep New Orleans intact as a majority-minority district was a practical hindrance. Its size made it very unlikely it will be the district ultimately chopped up to accomplish trimming the congressional delegation.
  • The 6th, currently housing the largest population of any district, covers the capitol city of Baton Rouge. Tha city's population makes it a Democratic base, but a Republican still held the seat after 2010. There were ways to redraw the district to favor either party, but Republican ascendancy in Louisiana made picking up territory to the south in the 3rd and becoming a safe red seat the most likely scenario at the outset of the redistricting process.
  • The 7th was Charles Boustany's seat, already very Republican and likely to become safe Republican territory for at least a decade. It could have picked up area from the 3rd, 4th, or 5th to accomplish that. The first scenario looked most likely at the beginning of the process, given that Jeff Landry was faring poorly from the beginning in his bid to protect his district.
  • Baton Rouge's location means it could become part of the 3rd, 5th, or 6th Districts.

Public Affairs Research Council report

Public Affairs Research (PAR), a good government group, followed up its detailed 2009 study on redistricting in Louisiana with a series of recommendations (dead link) for a nonpartisan redistricting committee to take over from the legislature starting in 2020.[207][208]

The six key recommendations called for:

  1. districts drawn with more attention to the state's interests than to protecting incumbents.
  2. a transparent and full recorded redistricting process in 2011 with more weight given to public input.
  3. established rules to guide the process with no changes made absent a public hearing.
  4. all proposed amendments being accompanied by maps showing the proposed impact and published early enough to allow public debate and input.
  5. a moratorium on new judgeships until the legislature's Judicial Council can comprehensively review the structure of the State Court of Appeal and the numbers of sitting appellate judges.
  6. the legislature preparing a plan for an independent redistricting committee in 2020.

On top of recommending transparency assurances in 2011 and a citizens' commission in future years, PAR was explicit in warning about various potentials for abuse and corruption under the current situation, something that resonated with the state's voters.[209][210][211] PARC specifically called out Louisiana for a history of gerrymandering, with plans being overturned in both 1990 and 2000, and challenged the legislatively-controlled process for using redistricting to shore up partisan advantages and protect incumbents.[212]

For its part, the legislature only intended to use the spring 2011 special session to draw legislative seats and boundaries for the Board of Education, offices up for election in 2011. All other offices tied to specific districts were put off until 2012.[213]

Delaying drawing judicial lines, whether as a nod to the PAR recommendations or as a necessity given time constraints, got some public approval.[214]

PAR continued pushing for an independent commission in time for the 2021 process as the legislature met in its special session. Advocates for reform dismissed lawmaker who argued the transition would be too difficult by pointing to the 23 states that have some form of independent redistricting. "There are enough states already doing this,” he said. “We don't have to recreate the wheel."[215]

As the special session and its political squabbling wore on, local press got on board in pushing for a move away from a legislative process in time for 2021.[216]

An amendment to the Louisiana Constitution would be needed to take control of the process away from legislators, something PAR turned their attention to after the 2011 legislative session ends.

In a retrospective published days after the special session ended, PAR outlined the various crises and fights of the session, renewing their call for an independent commission. Speculating that the Justice Department might reject one or more of the maps, they also wrote of a need to consider whether, "guidelines and case history intended to protect minority voting rights may have created an environment for redistricting that is unnecessarily unclear and possibly counterproductive."[217]

Council for a Better Louisiana

Grudgingly admitting that the compromise map, one in which the compromise may have meant no one was happy, CABL President Barry Erwin called for an independent redistricting commission very similar to the recommendations of the PAR report.

Never a politically safe thing to attack, the VRA did get some criticism in the press after plans passed, when one paper published Erwin's call for an independent commission and noted that keeping enough black voters together for one VRA seat called for such odd boundaries that options for the rest of the state were limited.

"It was a crime to split parishes or communities of interest in one part of the state, but if it happened in another part that was OK."

Erwin described a domino effect in which federal regulations give rise to incumbent pressure on mapmakers, which interferes with local political pressures, and so on, until the redistricting process is unwieldy and serving politicians far more than voters.

Agreeing with the CABL was at least one member of the legislature, Republican Senator Dan Claitor, who brought up the idea of moving Louisiana to an independent commission.

Legal issues

Number of Congressional districts

Less than a month after winning re-election, Louisiana Attorney General Buddy Caldwell began a legal battle to keep Louisiana's seven congressional seats. Under new congressional district plan, a result of national redistricting based on the 2010 census, Louisiana has six seats in Congress - one fewer than it has had for the last 10 years.[219]

On November 14, 2011, Caldwell's office filed a lawsuit with the U.S. Supreme Court, alleging the census "included illegal foreign nationals along with holders of guest-worker visas and student visas" in it's 2012 national population count. He explained "Louisiana's complaint simply asks the court to require the federal government to re-calculate the 2012 apportionment of U.S. House of Representatives seats based on legal residents, just as the U.S. Constitution requires."[219]

Lawsuit against Jindal

In late September 2012, Ron Ceasar, a candidate for US House of Representatives, filed suit against Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) for allegedly conspiring with the state Legislature to dilute minority voting strength in the congressional redistricting plan. The suit sought to temporarily stop the November 6, 2012 congressional elections in districts 3, 4, and 5.[220]

According to the suit, “The governor of Louisiana, personally got involved in the reapportionment of these congressional districts due to conflict of interest for electing and re-electing white Republicans to office.” Jindal's executive council Elizabeth Murrill denounced the move, stating, “This is a frivolous lawsuit. The (U.S.) Justice Department already cleared this plan.”[220]


An unusual combination of factors gave Louisiana one of the tightest redistricting schedules in the United States in 2011. As one of the few states to hold odd year state elections, Louisiana must complete a plan in time for primary and general elections in the same calendar year. The state's Civil Rights history also means it must get Department of Justice approval on its statewide plan to ensure compliance with the Voting Rights Act.[221]

For as long as the VRA requirement has been in place, the Justice Department had not accepted a plan from Louisiana on the first try prior to 2011, which increased the pressure to deliver an acceptable redistricting plan in 2011. In recognition of the state's tight schedule, the U.S. Census Bureau put Louisiana at the front of its schedule for distributing detailed information, a date which was set for February 3, 2011.

The state's legislature set its special session for March 2011, convening on the 20th of the month and aiming to wrap up everything within five months. Redistricting may not legally be on the regular session's agenda, and the need to campaign limited the attention legislators could give over the summer and early fall, making the end of the special session on April 13, 2011 a major deadline.

Key dates

Due to the 2011 off-year elections, Louisiana's revised statutes governing election timing came into play, which directly influenced redistricting. The Secretary of State needed to be in receipt of a pre-cleared plan five business days before qualifying began. Qualifying itself must begin 45 days before the "jungle primary," set for October 22, 2011. Thus, at least technically speaking, May 22, 2011 was the hard deadline.

Louisiana 2010 Redistricting Timeline[222]
Date Action
February-March 2011 Public hearings held throughout state.
March 20 - April 13, 2011 Extraordinary joint session of the legislature.
May 2, 2011 Proposed deadline for submission of plans for preclearance.
May 20, 2011 Revised deadline for submission of plans for preclearance.
August 29, 2011 Deadline for Secretary of State to receive notice of preclearance of plans for Legislature for inclusion on fall ballot.
September 6-8, 2011 Qualifying dates for candidates for legislative and BESE offices.
October 22, 2011 "Jungle" primary election.
November 7, 2011 General election.
December 31, 2011 Deadline for state legislature to redistrict itself.
June 27, 2012 Deadline for Secretary of State to receive preclearance of plans for Congressional redistricting.


Deviation from "Ideal Districts"

2000 Population Deviation[223]
Office Percentage
Congressional Districts 0.04%
State House Districts 9.88%
State Senate Districts 9.95%
Under federal law, districts may vary from an 'Ideal District' by up to 10%, though the lowest number achievable is preferred. 'Ideal Districts' are computed through simple division of the number of seats for any office into the population at the time of the Census.

Constitutional explanation

The Louisiana Constitution provides authority for redistricting to the Legislature in Section 6 of Article III. If the legislature fails, Section 6 allows the supreme court, "upon petition of any elector," to reapportion each house.

See also

External links

Federal government links

State government links



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