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New Group Advocates Redistricting Reform

Do you ever feel like your vote doesn’t count? In many cases, it doesn’t, due to the way your voting district has been drawn.

The fundamental principle is ‘voters elect the representatives.’ With partisan gerrymandering, the representatives elect their voters,” explains Dr. Brian Marks, who teaches political geography at LSU.

A new grassroots bipartisan group called Fair Districts Louisiana is trying to fix that problem before the next redistricting is required, following the 2020 Census. Stephen Kearny is one of the organizers of the group.

If you eliminate partisan gerrymandering, you increase the impact that independents have on the election,” Kearny told the Baton Rouge Press Club Monday.

With 25 percent of Louisiana voters now registered as other than Democrat or Republican, Kearny says the group is looking for ways to craft voting districts that are more inclusive of all viewpoints.

Redistricting is a rather wonkish subject,” admits Marks, who is advising the new coalition. “But it is the rules through which you get – in part – the majority, or fail to get the majority, to move on issues like abortion and guns and everything else that are these so-called ‘hot-button’ issues.”

An upcoming U.S. Supreme Court ruling in a gerrymandering case out of Wisconsin could impact Louisiana. The case was argued before the Supremes last month, with a decision expected in June.

Marks says Wisconsin has the same system as Louisiana, where state lawmakers draw the outlines of their own districts.

It’s drawn for incumbency protection,” he says.

The new group believes establishing an independent redistricting commission might be a better option than the current system, which ends up with districts that Marks says look like “crazy modern art.”

He's proposing goals for such a commission, including, “Increasing the competitiveness – making electoral districts more purple; increasing responsiveness – making it more likely that a district would flip if the voters were to move to the left or move to the right.”

Fair Districts Louisiana has planned a day-long summit Jan. 19, 2018, to be held at the LSU School of Journalism.