GURVICH: Is Redistricting Really Just A Matter Of Simple Math?

We read in the papers this morning that yesterday, a federal appeals court lifted the stay of a lower court’s ruling in Baton Rouge, which had ordered the legislature back to work to redraw our congressional district maps. According to the trial court, the fact that blacks in Louisiana constituted nearly a third of the population, was sufficient justification to force the creation of another minority congressional district in our fair state. That is, so the reasoning goes, blacks should predominate in two of our six congressional districts, amounting to one third of the total delegation. The lower court essentially held that redistricting is all a matter of simple math, which line of reasoning exactly follows the Democrat/Progressive narrative.

And is redistricting in fact just a matter of simple math? Much the greater part of our legacy media would have you believe so.  After all, this has been the media’s constant refrain for years, at least when it benefits left-wing causes. Governor John Bel Edwards would have you believe that this is all just a matter of simple math. Why just yesterday, he issued the following helpful statement which clarified his thinking on the subject:

This has always been a straightforward case of simple math, simple fairness and the rule of law. According to the U. S. Census, African Americans make up nearly one third of the voting population in Louisiana, and therefore, we should have a second majority minority congressional district.”

As I have pointed out before in these pages, redistricting is anything but a matter of simple math, and the press, academia, the Democrats, and even John Bel Edwards, all know this perfectly well. They should all be ashamed for grossly oversimplifying a complex and difficult political process essential to the well-being of our republic, and presenting the public with a woefully incomplete explanation of the process. Sad to relate, the Left long ago forswore the emotion of shame.

So let us turn to the traditional considerations in the process of redistricting. Recall that race as a factor only entered into the redistricting calculus with the advent of the Voting Rights Act in the 1960’s. As laudable a goal as the Voting Rights Act was intended to achieve, this act has since become the classic showcase in all of American politics of the law of unintended consequences. Nor was the Voting Rights Act ever intended to pre-empt far older considerations in redistricting which date from, or even predate, the founding of the American republic.

And just what are these other considerations?

POPULATION EQUALITY is predictably the most important. “One man, one vote,” or as we now say, “one person, one vote” is the essence of democracy and is accordingly enshrined in the constitutions and laws of the federal government and every state. Even here, however, some small leeway in district populations is allowed for, perhaps five percent or so.

COMPACTNESS & CONTIGUITY are also very important considerations for obvious reasons. A district’s shape should ideally consist of a geographically consolidated area, with a somewhat geometrical shape and an identifiable center, and no part of the district should be completely isolated from the rest of the district. Now God’s geography can certainly preempt man’s political objectives, particularly in a state like Louisiana, but compactness and contiguity nevertheless remain desired goals wherever possible.

POLITICAL SUBDIVISIONS & COMMUNITIES OF INTEREST have always been important redistricting considerations. Newly created political subdivisions are necessarily engrafted onto pre-existing ones, and people will have developed an identity and loyalty to the older districts which should be taken into consideration. Let’s use a somewhat different context, but the result is very similar: Most people consider themselves members of a community, and members of a community have mutual interests. The folks within a community of interest generally share a background or characteristics (such as social, cultural, historical, racial, ethnic, or economic affiliation) that may be relevant to their legislative representation, and this fact should also be taken into account during the redistricting process.

Yet the Democrats have focused almost exclusively on one and only one factor, race, as the sole rationale for creating new districts at every level of government. That should come as a surprise to absolutely no one, as they have advertised their intentions ad nauseam for years. Unfortunately for them, the legislature has instead wisely chosen to draft a redistricting plan such that all of Louisiana’s congressional districts have a population base in a major city, and that is a very reasonable way to design congressional districts.

And the situation is greatly complicated by the fact that Louisiana’s black population is scattered throughout the state because it skews more toward the larger cities than the rest of the population. It is a simple fact of geography that large cities are rarely situated next to each other (only Minneapolis-St.Paul and Dallas-Ft. Worth readily come to mind), and certainly not in Louisiana. No single city, with the partial exception of metropolitan New Orleans, is sufficiently large and geographically coherent to make up a minority-majority congressional district on its own. Even here, the 2nd Congressional District is forced to snake its way along the river up into parts of Baton Rouge.

And what effect has this minority district had on its constituents? One hears constant complaints that the residents of Baton Rouge who reside in the 2nd District feel politically marginalized. No one from Baton Rouge is ever likely to represent the district, nor will their issues ever compete in importance with those of their more numerous neighbors to the southeast. Yet in the search for one more left-wing congressman, Democrats are willing to create another snakelike, thoroughly gerrymandered congressional district which would violate the traditional factors which have wisely guided redistricting for centuries, as well as plain old common-sense.

So the fact is that irrespective of the ruling of one lower court judge, Louisiana has a good and lawful redistricting plan. Our legislators should fight to keep the plan which they created by an overwhelming vote, presented to the Governor, and then sustained over his veto. If John Bel forces them to gavel into a special session this week against their wishes and they respond with a quick cup of coffee before gaveling out, then we should fully support them.

LOUIS GURVICH, Chairman
Republican Party of Louisiana

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