For the political left, sauce for the goose is not sauce for the gander. Rather, it’s heads they win, tails you lose when it comes to gerrymandering Louisiana election districts.
Groups allied with Louisiana Democrats have shown great willingness to manipulate rules to get their desired ends on this issue. They have delivered a steady drumbeat demanding, and threatening, how the state must draw two minority-majority districts for the U.S. House of Representatives for elections later this year, saying because with a state population just about one-third black thus blacks should have constituent majorities in those many districts of six.
Never mind that, because most of the state’s black population resides in large cities distant from one another and along the Mississippi River, to draw a second such district would produce such oddly-shaped boundaries among multiple districts connecting areas hundreds of miles apart with little in common other than race as to make any plan like this constitutionally suspect. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled race cannot be such a prominent factor in drawing lines as to render several other criteria essentially meaningless.
But the left hasn’t stopped with these districts in its attempt to impose its will on Louisiana. Much the same collection of interest groups also has insisted that reapportionment deliver a third M/M district for the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, which has eight elected members plus three appointed. Once again, they make insinuations of legal action if they don’t get their way. Indeed, they double down on the implication that failure to follow their dictates produces racist policy.
However, one-third isn’t three-eighths, So, they change the rules by bringing the Hispanic population into the equation. It represents just a few percentage points of the state, but added together with blacks gets over the three-eighths level. With that, to the Legislature’s Governmental Affairs committees they submitted two maps that create two M/M black majority districts, and a third where the black proportion falls just short but scrapes above 50 percent black/Hispanic and just under that for whites, Asians, and American Indian/Pacific Islanders (one question for the coalition is why Asians, who in numbers and population concentration aren’t dissimilar from Hispanics, receive short shrift from it on this issue).
To do so, they confect one extraordinarily constitutionally suspect district that looks like a blood splatter. Clearly designed to pluck as many residents possible on the basis of race, it meanders from around Natchitoches, careens up the Red River, goes through central city Shreveport and turns hard to take in the narrow sliver of black-majority population in Bossier City, then heads east along Interstate 20 widening a bit with a couple of fingers to gulp in disproportionately black-populated areas until finally beginning to look somewhat rational when it reaches Ouachita Parish and finishes at the black belt Mississippi River parishes, naturally avoiding large white majority West Carroll in the process.
This is the plurality district, and is surrounded entirely by another that is heavily white. In fact, all five non-M/M districts have huge non-M/M majorities, none less than 69 percent, while no M/M district exceeds 59 percent – a clear indicator of racial gerrymandering. The other map largely keeps existing boundaries, included the somewhat convoluted M/M 8th District, but splits the very compact and contiguous 4th and 5th into the arrangement of the other map, which produces districts favoring somewhat larger majorities.
The groups claim that certain statistical indicators show the first map does better than the current in preventing split parishes – despite its map splitting nine between the two current north Louisiana districts – and in compactness. But this is a straw man argument; the task at hand is to draw boundaries under existing conditions, not comparing past to present. And undoubtedly plenty of maps can be manufactured with present data splitting fewer parishes and creating more compactness with just two M/M districts – including one taking the first map but keeping the present Shreveport-based and Monroe-based districts and adjusting their southern boundaries a bit. That this can be done is another demonstration of the severe constitutional infirmity of the proposed maps.
Yet even more defectively, the groups’ whole argument rests on sleight of hand. The groups attempt to justify the three necessary preconditions from the 1986 Thornburg v. Gingles Supreme Court case that define much of reapportionment that would demand making race a central (but not dominant) facet in mapmaking to make three M/M districts desirable: (1) a minority racial group must be sufficiently large and geographically compact to constitute a majority in a single-member district; (2) the group must be politically cohesive; and (3) bloc voting by a white majority must usually defeat the minority group’s preferred candidate.
Note how the criteria address a single minority group, yet the authors lump two in there and treat it as one. And, to date jurisprudence doesn’t recognize group aggregation as equating to one “minority racial group,” destroying the entire basis behind their case, a fact they conveniently ignore.
However, even upon separating out the several percentage points of Hispanic voters statewide clearly shows their plans would meet none of the preconditions. In terms of anything but local offices, Hispanics don’t have large-enough numbers or concentration to create a majority, which makes the bloc voting by whites a moot point, and aren’t politically cohesive – after all, in the 2020 election Republican former Pres. Donald Trump scored 38 percent of their vote, but only 8 percent of the black vote.
The groups invoked the woke lexicon in arguing that outcomes, rather than demonstrated process and intent, provide evidence of discrimination that they claim means race must be a consideration in redistricting, but entirely avoid mentioning unimpeachable facts that negate their entire constitutionally-deficient argument. Legislators must reject this blatantly unconstitutional and contrafactual attempt to gerrymander on the basis of race.