In the first installment of this series, we discussed the basics of redistricting. In this installment, we will put this theory into practice by developing a hypothetical map for the Louisiana Supreme Court, given current population estimates.
Given the change in voter registration between April 2010 (when the US Census was taken) and December 2013, JMC estimates that the current population of Louisiana is 4,580,251, or a 1.0% population change in 3.5 years (for comparisons sake, the most recent Census estimate has Louisiana’s population at 4,601,893).
Given this estimated population, a Louisiana Supreme Court district (there are seven Supreme Court justices) would have an ideal district population of 654,321. Since a 5% population variance is permitted in drawing district lines in Louisiana, a Supreme Court district may have a population of between 621,519 and 687,038.
The current district lines of the Louisiana Supreme Court have been in place since 1999. In other words, the 2000 and 2010 reapportionments were accomplished WITHOUT a redrawing of Supreme Court districts. So given the fact that the district lines reflect the 1990 Census population, the massive population losses from Hurricane Katrina in 2005 (and suburbanization) have resulted in substantial population variances between each Supreme Court district. District 7 (the “New Orleans district”) is 38% underpopulated, while District 5 (the “Baton Rouge district”) is 27% overpopulated.
Regardless of who is drawing the lines, the first order of business in any reapportionment plan would be to expand the New Orleans district (District 7), while the Baton Rouge district (District 5) would need to contract in size substantially. Those two changes then drive the way the remaining five districts look.
A Democratic redistricter would want to draw the lines in such a way that Democratic voter blocs would be equally spread out amongst the districts to maximize the Democratic vote. Similarly, a partisan Democrat would likely concede the 1st District (New Orleans suburbs) to the Republicans by packing as many Republicans as possible into that one district, thus diluting the potential Republicans have outside of New Orleans to elect Supreme Court justices. Furthermore, given that incumbent protection is considered when drawing district lines, the fact that District 2 (the NW Louisiana district) is an open seat in 2014 would tempt Democrats into making that district more Democrat friendly, particularly since contested races for the US Senate and Mayor of Shreveport would likely increase Democratic turnout in that part of the state. Given all of these considerations, this is what a Democratic map might look like.
If a Republican were drawing the lines, District 7 (the New Orleans seat) would likely be extended up the river to Baton Rouge (given “one person, one vote” mandates), which would strengthen the existing partisan leanings both of District 5 (the Baton Rouge seat), while preserving a black majority seat for District 7. Furthermore, the GOP would attempt to protect its incumbent in NE Louisiana and the open seat in NW Louisiana, although the political reality is, terrirory immediately to the south of those districts (particularly between US Highway 190 and Alexandria) has more of a Democratic tilt to it, particularly in local elections. Other than that, the two South Louisiana seats (District 3 in SW Louisiana and Disrtict 6 in Houma/Thibodaux) would try to be made competitive for any Republican challengers.
Any redistricting plan that would be considered would inevitably be tweaked to satisfy the preferences of those serving on the House/Senate Governmental Affairs Committees. Still, given the population estimates as of December 2013, these contrasting plans can be thought of as a “first draft” for the Supreme Court plan that would eventually be passed.