Note: This article was originally published in The Bayou Progressive on February 11, 2022. You can read the original article here.
Throughout the last six months, thousands of community members and fair redistricting advocacy groups have come together to shed light on the importance of a fair and equitable redistricting process. As the final Redistricting Roadshow concludes on January 20th, a misleading narrative has emerged: the Louisiana redistricting process should remain the same since its inception and not look at race.
Unfortunately, Louisiana has a history of extreme racial gerrymandering and partisan gridlock that has undermined minority voting power and paralyzed the political process for Louisaians for far too many years. While previous redistricting cycles have favored and empowered certain groups, communities of color have unfortunately faced some of the most audacious challenges to limit and dilute their voting power. In fact, during roadshow public testimonies, folks have shared their frustrations with unequal districts that pack and crack Black folks and minorities.
The truth is that the redistricting cycle does more than redraw political lines, but it is the north star of equity work. Fair congressional and legislative maps heavily influence who runs for office, community safety, economic opportunities, healthcare access, infrastructure, and more.
All Louisiana voters should be able to choose a candidate of choice or live in competitive districts. Louisiana’s Black voters are severely underrepresented. According to the 2020 Census data, one-third of Louisiana’s population is majority-minority.
Currently, only 37 out of 144 of the members of the State Legislature are Black, and only one of Louisiana’s six congressional districts is majority-minority. There is no ‘race-blind’ fight in redistricting.
Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act protects the rights of Black voters to have an opportunity to elect their candidate of choice through additional majority-minority districts–regardless of the party of the candidate (or lack of party affiliation, if it is a nonpartisan election).
It is time that elected officials right what has been wrong in the past, such as the approval of racially gerrymandered maps that have neutered the voices of many minority voters. The legislature cannot prioritize partisan strategies over Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act compliance. If February’s redistricting cycle is done correctly, the anticipated process will allow all Louisiana voters to have a fair say in how they are governed for the next decade.
My hope – and the hope of many community members across the state – is that in 2022, the Louisiana legislature will stand on the right side of history and set the tone of equity for generations to come.