(May 1) 

In its reasonable decision to throw out Louisiana’s congressional redistricting plan on Wednesday, a federal judicial panel implicitly highlighted, yet again, the confusing mess both Congress and the Supreme Court have made of redistricting law.

The result remains a mess, but at least it gets rid of districts that are patently absurd.

The back story is convoluted. The Louisiana legislature’s original map after the 2020 census, like the 2010 map that federal courts accepted, contained one district out of six that had a voting population with a black majority. After 2020, though, District Judge Shelly Dick threw it out, contending that it improperly underrepresented Louisiana’s black voters, who make up almost one-third of the state’s population.

The legislature then drew a new plan with a second black-majority district. That district strangely looks like a long, thin, twisted dog’s toy. It nearly bisects another district shaped like a rectangular, downward-angling Pac-Man who can’t quite close his jaws. The dog’s-toy district stretches some 250 miles, snatching tiny black enclaves along the way. This is as if a black person living in Catholic-Cajun areas in suburban Lafayette has more in common with a black person in rural, Bible-Belt DeSoto Parish or with black residents of urban Baton Rouge than with his Cajun neighbors. (A parish is the Louisiana equivalent of a county in other states.)

Today, a special three-judge review panel threw out the new map, saying it was unacceptably gerrymandered based on race.

For decades, courts have ruled, with good reason, that district shapes should be reasonably compact and contiguous, except to take account of geographical features such as rivers or mountain ranges, and that districts, where possible, should not divide natural “communities of interest” such as common cultural heritage or shared economic bases.

Two judges on the panel wrote that the dog’s-toy district violated all those guidelines…. [The full column is at this link.]


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