Last week, JMC Analytics and Polling analyzed the July 1, 2016 Census estimates by parish for Louisiana and briefly discussed the political impacts of population shifts since the 2010 Census. In this analysis, there will be a a practical application of those population shifts by demonstrating the impact on Louisiana’s six Congressional districts.
As with any redistricting discussion, it’s important to emphasize that it’s a very political process that nevertheless must operate within the confines of existing law, such as “one man one vote” and the 1965 Voting Rights Act.
Having made that disclaimer, the map below illustrates the current Congressional districts, as well as noting both its 2010 Census Population and 2016 estimated Census population:
Given the 2016 population estimates, the average population of a Congressional district is approximately 780K. When looking at the map, the two North Louisiana districts (District 4 represented by Republican Mike Johnson and District 5 represented by Republican Ralph Abraham) are below the average population, while the suburban districts (District 1 represented by Republican Steve Scalise and District 6 represented by Republican Garret Graves) are above the population average, while both Districts 2 (represented by Democrat Cedric Richmond) and District 3 (represented by Republican Clay Higgins) have almost exactly the necessary population.
If one were drawing the lines with the goals of (1) equal populations, (2) smoothing out the lines, and (3) minimal disruptions to existing districts, this is one way that could be accomplished given the 2016 population estimates.
(1) The 3rd Congressional District is the easiest: it’s in the corner of the state, and is relatively compact. Plus, it is only slightly (5K) over the required population, so only minor adjustments need to be made, like removing four precincts in St Landry Parish and two precincts in a remote corner of Calcasieu Parish near Starks;
(2) The 4th Congressional District is underpopulated by about 26K. Some of that population deficit can come from territory shed by the 3rd Congressional District, and by adding territory in St Landry Parish currently in the 5th Congressional District;
(3) The 5th Congressional District needs to add 48K people, and a likely place to get that additional population is from the Florida Parishes. After the 2011 redistricting, those parishes were appended to the 5th for the first time, except that it only contains portions of three parishes (East Feliciana, St Helena, and Tangipahoa). The district lines can therefore be smoothed out by picking up the rest of East Feliciana and St Helena from the 6th Congressional District. At the same time, additional territory in and around Hammond can be appended from the 1st District as well;
(4) At this point, the 1st, 2nd, and 6th districts are pretty close to the necessary district population, so minor adjustments are all that are required. However, from the standpoint of representing similar constituencies, it makes more sense to put the east bank of St John and St Charles Parishes in the New Orleans suburb based 1st Congressional District. At the same time, the 6th district would pick up territory in Central Lafourche Parish and in Terrebonne Parish precincts adjacent to Houma. And to finish the job, some precincts in East Baton Rouge, Ascension, and Assumption would be traded between the 2nd and 6th Congressional Districts. Below is what the “finished product” would look like:
In conclusion, it must be emphasized that this is only way way to draw the Congressional Districts. In an actual redistricting setting, equal population and voting rights laws are only the beginning, because input is provided by the Congressional delegation, as well as legislators into such a plan.