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The Power of Now
Monday, May 16, 2011
By:Lou Gehrig Burnett
The redistricting plan adopted by the Legislature for its state House districts has gained national attention – and not in a good way.
A broad coalition is urging the U.S. Justice Department to reject the plan, calling it discriminatory.
The NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund (LDF), the National Urban League, the Louisiana Legislative Black Caucus, and the NAACP State Conference of Louisiana issued a joint letter urging the U.S. Attorney General to reject the redistricting plan for the Louisiana House of Representatives.
John Payton, LDF’s President and Director-Counsel, noted that “The Voting Rights Act was designed to block precisely the kind of discrimination that arose during Louisiana’s redistricting process.”
The plan increases the number of House minority districts from 27 to 29, but the aforementioned organizations say a 30th district – and possibly more – could have been created.
The objection by the groups focuses mainly on the possible creation of an African-American district in Shreveport.
The House and Governmental Affairs Committee with a Republican majority approved a fourth majority-black district for Shreveport. But some white legislators, led by state Rep. Alan Seabaugh, R-Shreveport, with the help of state Rep. Barbara Norton, a black Democratic representative from Shreveport, were successful in deleting the fourth black district on the House floor.
Norton argued that a fourth majority-black district in Shreveport would have diluted the minority population in her district.
In the letter sent to Justice by the groups, they pointed out that minority Shreveport districts would have ranged from 61.7% to 71.7%, enough to show a minority could be elected if a fourth district had been approved.