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La.’s redistricting plans in national spotlight

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Written by
Deborah Barfield Berry

From: Shreveport




WASHINGTON — Rep. Rick Gallot thought when federal officials questioned him about how Louisiana lawmakers created their House redistricting plan they would focus on minority representation in the New Orleans area. Thousands of blacks left the city after Hurricane Katrina.

Instead, he said, Justice Department officials questioned him about the Shreveport area, hundreds of miles away.

“They didn’t ask me not one question about Orleans. It was all about Shreveport,” Gallot, chairman of the Louisiana House and Governmental Affairs Committee, said of a teleconference with Justice officials last month. “The plan we submitted primarily has problems in the Shreveport area. It’s in their hands now.”

Louisiana is the first state covered by Section 5 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act to use new census data to redraw the boundaries of its legislative districts.

And it is one of the few states to take the unusual step of also filing its House redistricting plan in federal court in Washington, D.C.

“Other states will be watching this very, very closely since it is likely to be the first major redistricting plan to get preclearance, or denial, from this Justice Department in this cycle of redistricting,” said Tim Storey, a senior fellow with the National Conference of State Legislatures.

“If the plans are rejected, states will study very closely to see how plans are going to be evaluated.”

Election experts say states are also looking to see how a Justice Department under a Democratic administration handles the voting rights issue.

“It also gives us some of the first clues about what this Democratic DOJ thinks about all of this redistricting activity this year,” said Kimball Brace, a redistricting expert and president of Election Data Services Inc. “This redistricting is basically a lot of tea reading.”

National and local civil rights groups have complained to Justice that Louisiana’s House plan does not create enough majority-minority districts, including the one in the Shreveport area.

Rep. Alan Seabaugh, R-Shreveport, however, said a proposal to create a new minority district there “defies logic.” 




Written by demon53

June 21, 2011 at 1:32 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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