Walter Pierce

Stonecipher: Fight looms over redistricting

by Walter Pierce

Shreveport demographer Elliott Stonecipher is predicting an ugly battle among state legislative delegations when the process of redrawing Louisiana’s House and Senate district lines begins following the 2010 census, and Stonecipher urges “winner” parishes like Lafayette — one of only seven in the state to have gained population since the 2000 census — to fight for what they deserve.

In an e-mail alert titled, “TOP 5 REASONS Reapportionment & Redistricting Will Be HARD-, HARD-, HARDBALL POLITICS,” Stonecipher cites two main reasons why Lafayette and the other winning parishes (Ascension, Bossier, Livingston, St. John, St. Tammany and Tangipahoa) stand to be short-shrifted: Northeast Louisiana and New Orleans, which both lost population since 2000, will fight hard to prevent a redistricting that truly represents Louisiana’s current population distribution.

The respective leaders in the House (Rep. Rick Gallot of Ruston) and the Senate (Sen. Bob Kostelka of Monroe) who will oversee redrawing district lines both represent northeast Louisiana. New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, according to Stonecipher, has been successful in inflating New Orleans’ true population. If the Crescent City and northeast Louisiana get their way, political clout that should shift to other parts of the state — the Florida parishes and Acadiana in particular — will stay put.

Stonecipher, like the Public Affairs Research Council of Louisiana, believes state lawmakers shouldn’t be doing the redistricting in the first place because of an inevitable conflict of interest: Who expects elected officials to redistrict the state to honestly reflect population distribution when that could lessen the likelihood of being re-elected? “Every knowledgeable person can easily see and understand which parishes must ‘lose’ in this process," Stonecipher writes. "Problem is, those in charge of this work in the legislature, and the governor’s office, I believe, have already proven that they have no intention of letting fairness get in their way. If we let them, the ‘losers’ will end up being those who trust these leaders and their process."