Danahay talks redistricting at LOWV

Published 12:00 am Monday, November 22, 2010

Vickie Peoples

In regards to redistricting, Louisiana is on a very short timeline, stated state representative Mike Danahay (D-Sulphur). Legislative elections are in the Fall.
Representative Danahay spoke on redistricting plans to the League of Women Voters on Friday afternoon.
The redistricting process is the dicennial redrawing of political boundaries. In Louisiana, it includes the boundaries for the State Legislature, U.S. House of Representatives, judicial system, Public Service Commission and the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.
“To do this, you have to use the most current census data. The U.S. Department of Commerce is responsible for the census. In December, we will receive our state population number. In January, we’ll learn from that how many Congressional seats will be allocated to Louisiana,” said Danahay.
It is projected that Louisiana will lose one Congressional seat.
It is also predicted that Louisiana will lose some seats in the State Legislature.
“We’re definitely going to lose some seats in New Orleans. I’ve heard the prediction from three to five representative seats in the State Legislature will be eliminated. Most of those are going to be minority representation.”
“Once we receive the census data, the House and Governmental Affairs Committee will meet concerning that data. We’ll start seeing where the population shifts are taking place, where demographics have changed and start working on that end,” said the representative.
Starting February 17, the committee members will be holding hearings across the state.
“We’ll go on the road and go to various parts of the state, meet with people, have people’s input of what they think their various districts should look like.”
In late March, the legislature will convene in a special session to adopt a redistricting plan.
“At that time, we’ll take the plan and submit it to the U.S. Department of Justice. We have to start the process of pre-clearance. They have a 60 day period to respond to us. But, they can also ask for additional information and if they do that, it starts that 60 days over.
“We’ll go into session on April 25. By August 29, we have to be complete with the process because the Secretary of State must have that information whether we’ve been pre-cleared or not because qualification starts on September 6 through September 8. The Louisiana plan has never been pre-cleared the first time.”
In the redistricting process, Louisiana has to protect the rights of minorities.
“The Voting Rights Act of 1965 is to address the inequality of opportunity afforded to racial and ethnic minorities. It probably had the greatest impact of all in what happens in the redistricting process, in Louisiana in particular. There are two sections in the act that must be noted. The first is Section Two which prohibits the district lines from being drawn that deny minority voters equal opportunity to participate in the political process and to elect representatives of their choice. The second one is Section five which requires the state to pre-clear its redistricting plan with the U.S. Department of Justice or it can be challenged in the U.S. District Court.”
Louisiana is one of the nine states in the nation that has to preclear its redistricting plan.