PAR Releases Progress Report on Redistricting
The Public Affairs Research Council of Louisiana released a report today proposing ways to increase transparency and citizen confidence in the process of redistricting the state’s political maps. “Louisiana Redistricting: A 2011 Progress Report” makes key recommendations for the work now being undertaken by the Legislature to redraw the boundaries for Louisiana’s seats in Congress, the state House and Senate and other elected bodies.
The PAR report recommends that the state can advance its traditional approach to redistricting by doing the following:
1. Legislators should draw districts in the best interests of voters and communities, not to protect political parties or incumbents.
2. The Legislature should fully and publicly document the current redistricting process in anticipation of the 2020 redistricting cycle and accommodate broad public input.
3. The redistricting committees, as well as the full House and Senate, should establish, prioritize and adhere to a set of guiding principles throughout the process. Members should publicly debate any changes to the rules that embody those principles.
4. Amendments to redistricting bills should be clearly and carefully explained. Amendments should be posted in advance of votes to so that lawmakers and the public have time to review them. Proposed amendments should be accompanied by maps delineating the impact on all districts affected by the change.
5. The Legislature and the Judicial Council should use comprehensive data to look at the composition of the state Courts of Appeal and the number of appellate judges. In the event this cannot be done thoughtfully in the redistricting special session, PAR recommends that a moratorium on new judgeships be implemented until such work can be done on a statewide basis in calendar year 2011. This would allow changes to be implemented prior to the 2012 elections for some judgeships.
6. After the special session, the state should take decisive steps toward forming a new redistricting method that is not reliant on legislators drawing their own district maps. Ideally this would take the form of an independent commission overseeing redistricting of congressional and state legislative seats, though other systems should be considered. A new way of redistricting – implemented for the 2020 Census – should be debated, designed and approved in the near future, not later in the decade when incumbent pressures are likely to block real reform.
“Current members of the state House and Senate, as well as those taking office after the fall elections, will either be out of office or in their last term when the 2021 redistricting process is under way,” Scott said. “That means the window of opportunity for change is open much wider in the near future than it likely will be later in this decade, when freshly seated lawmakers may be more inclined to keep the old system of control and incumbent preservation.”
These PAR recommendations offer direction for policymakers for this redistricting session as well as reforms to strengthen future redistricting work. The PAR analysis “Louisiana Redistricting: A 2011 Progress Report” is available online at www.la-par.org.
The Public Affairs Research Council of Louisiana (PAR) is a private, nonprofit, non-partisan public policy research organization focused on pointing the way toward a more efficient, effective, transparent and accountable Louisiana government. PAR was founded in 1950 and is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization supported by foundation and corporate grants and individual donations. PAR has never accepted state government funds.
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Web Site: www.la-par.org