BATON ROUGE -- Members of the Louisiana Legislative Black Caucus say they want to expand the number of majority-black seats in the Legislature and Congress, but they will be careful not to weaken existing districts.
At an all-day event Thursday at the Southern University Law Center, state and national figures involved in drawing election districts discussed laws affecting redistricting and how the U.S. Department of Justice must approve any changes made in the state's current plan.
Louisiana is one of 10 states governed by the Voting Rights Act because of past discriminatory voting laws and actions.
"We definitely want the number of minority districts to go up," said state Rep. Patricia Smith, D-Baton Rouge, the LLBC chair. "We're not sure how many" can be justified by census numbers, "but I'm positive one more in Baton Rouge, possibly more,"
In the Senate, two predominantly minority districts elected white lawmakers.
Dale Ho of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund said, "If there is a lot of racial polarization and turmoil, you need 55 percent to be certain" that a minority can be elected. "If white voters in a district are willing to elect minorities, you might not need 55 percent."
"In Louisiana, you have to have at least 55 percent," Fields said. "You can go to sleep on that."