Fantasy redistricting – Part I (Introduction)

In the political world, redistricting/reapportionment are the least understood parts of politics. This mystery is due to several factors: (1) this process is only undertaken once a decade upon release of the US Census population figures, (2) it is very much a politically charged exercise, and (3) only politicians (and their connected operatives) can really participate.

There are “rules to the game”, of course. The Voting Rights Act specifically (and the judiciary in general) functions as a referee in that (1) appropriate minority representation must be maintained as per the Voting Rights Act, and (2) there are “ground rules” regarding appropriate district sizes and shapes so that Louisianians are equally represented (i.e., a parish with 100,000 would naturally have 10 times the influence that a parish of 10,000 would be entitled to have).

Even though the lines are formally drawn once a decade (they were last redrawn in 2011 before the legislative elections that fall), demographic changes are a continuously occurring event, so it’s always good for elected officials to have an idea about what (from a demographic standpoint) is happening to their district throughout the decade. And from a practical perspective, any legislator elected in 2011, 2015, or 2019 will be tasked with redrawing (and voting on) the district lines next time.

To estimate population changes since April 1, 2010 (the last time the Census was formally taken), JMC Enterprises of Louisiana has voter registration data by precinct for both April 2010 and December 2013, with the assumption that the voter population change in over the past 3.5 years will approximate the population change in those same precincts.

Several caveats must be issued at this point: while JMC will attempt to draw the lines from December 2013 estimated population data, actual Census data released in 2021 to the states/the public will be the official data that the House/Senate committees will use to draw their lines. This data is only a snapshot 6.5 years in advance and is an estimate. Finally, redistricting is an inherently political process driven by the ideologies/alliances of the legislators in place during the reapportionment special session.

Over the next several posts, JMC will redraw the lines from the perspective of both a partisan Democratic and a partisan Republican redistricter, since the lines that are ultimately drawn fall somewhere between both spectrums (i.e., incumbent preferences and various political alliances that form dictate the final result). This exercise will be performed for Congress, the Supreme Court, and the legislature.