Louisiana Redistricting Process Begins With Session Scheduled for February 2022

Photo source: Louisiana State Senate

When the Louisiana Legislature meets next February 1, 2022 to finalize new maps of state house, senate and congressional districts, neither the Republican-controlled legislature nor Democratic Governor John Bel Edwards will automatically have the upper hand. The legislature will propose the maps but Governor Edwards must sign them into law. Hence, there will be plenty of negotiations along the way.

Redistricting occurs every ten years after the release of the latest census. Because the 2020 census was conducted during the pandemic, some believe that too many citizens did not participate, thereby calling into question the accuracy of the results.  

According to the website FiveThirtyEight, there are 15 legislative districts that Democrats control and an additional five that lean Democrat. Conversely there are 15 district Republicans control and five that lean Republican. While the remaining districts are technically up for grabs, Republicans have been gaining voter strength statewide while the number of registered Democrats continues to decrease. Democratic strength is centered in New Orleans as well in pockets of Baton Rouge and Shreveport. Though there are six Congressional districts representing Louisiana, only one seat – the 2nd Congressional District based in New Orleans – is held by a Democrat, Troy Carter Sr. 

On June 14, 2021 the Louisiana Legislature approved House Concurrent Resolution #90 which provided for minimally acceptable criteria for any proposed redistricting plans. In April, 2021 several individual Louisiana voters filed a challenge to the congressional maps in state court anticipating that the legislature would fail to draw valid lines. Filed in Orleans Parish Civil District Court, the case is captioned English vs Ardoin, with a case number 2021-03538. The petition was last modified on April 26, 2021.

The Joint Committee on Governmental Affairs held its first meeting Friday, September 17, 2021. It has scheduled a series of regional meetings around that state to gather input from citizens. New Orleans area voters can attend a January 5, 2022 session at the University of New Orleans which will take place from 5:30 p.m. until 8:30 p.m. Other meetings are scheduled in Shreveport, Monroe, Alexandria, Baton Rouge, Lake Charles, Lafayette and Thibodeaux. For those who might miss a regional meeting, an additional forum will be held on January 20, 2022 at 11 a.m. at the State Capitol.  

Louisiana Progress, a solutions-driven organization that strives to be a force for good in local community organizing, will be hosting a webinar with Southern University Law Center on October 14. Redistricting materials will be available for webinar participants. 

Some experts are predicting that the number of legislators from north Louisiana will decrease due to out-migration and that more legislators could be added along the 1-10/1-12 corridor in parishes close to the Mississippi River. When the previous census was taken in 2010, New Orleans had lost considerable population in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Those numbers subsequently rebounded but by mid-decade had begun to fall again. Still, the overall increase might lead to a new legislative seat.

The Data Center, which provides independent analysis for informed decision making in Southeast Louisiana, recently analyzed information from Orleans Parish’s 2020 census. According to their research, the population of New Orleans grew from 343,829 in 2010 to 383,997 in 2020 – an increase of 11.7% which was well above the national population growth rate of 7.4%. 

Of the 40,000 new residents, over 16,000 are White; nearly 13,000 Hispanic; almost 8,000 Multicultural; 1,000 Black and about 700 Asian.   

Unfortunately New Orleans still has only 79% of its pre-Katrina total population as some neighborhoods have grown and others have shrunk. Given that 16 years have passed, that additional 21% of the population may never return.

The Data Center divides New Orleans into 72 distinct neighborhoods. As of April 2020, five neighborhoods have less than half the population they did before Katrina including four that encompass former public housing sites which were redeveloped as mixed income housing.  Seven neighborhoods – the Lower Garden District, CBD, Audubon, Lake Terrace, Black Pearl, Lakeshore/Lake Vista, and Lake Oaks – are even more populous than they were in 2000. 

Fully 51 neighborhoods gained some population between 2010 and 2020. The Marigny and the Irish Channel lost population and housing units when shotgun doubles were converted to singles and other renovations took place. Though the number of housing units increased in the French Quarter, occupancy rates have fallen, perhaps suggesting that increasingly homes in the French Quarter are used seasonally. The average household size also fell in Mid-City.

While Black population grew in Central City, Gert Town, Holy Cross, Milneburg, St. Anthony and Treme/Lafitte, White and Hispanic populations grew faster. Therefore a smaller percentage of Blacks reside in those neighborhoods.

Hispanic individuals represent more than 10% of residents in 10 New Orleans neighborhoods. Black New Orleanians represent more than 60% of the population in 37 neighborhoods, but have fallen to below half in Broadmoor, Mid-City and Milan. The Multiracial population is the fastest growing group in New Orleans and now represents more than 4% of residents in 18 neighborhoods. 

The Asian population has not grown substantially, and as of 2020, disproportionately resides in New Orleans East. Aurora/English Turn, and the Central Business District. In Bayou St. John, Bywater, East Riverside and the Irish Channel, the White population is now above 60% of the population.

The 2020 census counted more than 2,000 children in Little Woods, Village de l’Est, Lakeview, Central City, Tall Timbers/Brechtel, Old Aurora and Behrman.

According to the Data Center, New Orleans has become more Hispanic, more Multicultural, and more White. Whites now represent 32% of all New Orleanians. The share of New Orleans that is Black has fallen to 54%. Hispanics and Multicultural New Orleanians make up the balance. 

New Orleans has always been a melting pot, but the ingredients in the gumbo continue to change. Perhaps the new maps will reflect the current ethnic balance of New Orleans’ ever-changing population.

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