The Department of Justice has pre-cleared Redistricting maps submitted by the Louisiana Legislature for the Louisiana House of Representatives. As you all may know the Louisiana Legislative Black Caucus voted against the acceptance of these maps as the House did not include enough minority districts. We will continue to update you on advocacy concerning this matter.
A final decision will be made concerning pre-clearance for State Senate maps on next week. Supporting an alternative solution offered by her constituency and advisors, Sen. Cynthia Willard-Lewis (D-Orleans) proposed an alternative redistricting map as evidence that the Senate could comply with requirements of the Voting Rights Act and save a majority-minority Senate seat in Louisiana. Dubbed "The People's Plan", Senate Bill 33 would preserve four out of five majority-minority districts in New Orleans. Notably, the Willard-Lewis proposal would keep the current 2nd District - which the census showed is growing faster than surrounding areas - intact.
Lawmakers who supported Senate Bill 1 have chosen to draw districts that best protect their political futures instead of creating a map that maximizes the ability of all communities, especially those that have been marginalized historically, to elect representatives of their choice. Fair-minded residents of New Orleans east and the Lower 9th Ward and all Louisiana communities should let their elected officials know that a full and just recovery from the 2005 catastrophe depends substantially on redistricting plans that put people - not politicians - first.
Please continue to send your comments to the Department of Justice directly to support the preservation of "Communities of Interest" in New Orleans east and the Lower 9th Ward by signing the petition below:
Under Louisiana Senate Bill 1 amended, which the Louisiana Legislature submitted for preclearance under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, I would be a voter in a new Senate District under SB 1 amended. I am submitting this comment letter as a part of the Section 5 preclearance process because I believe that this plan will make minority voters in the state and in my district worse off than the previous plan from 2003. I will be worse off because I will no longer be able to elect the candidate of my choice in my new district. The Louisiana Legislature recently completed a special session to redistrict the state's congressional, state house and state senate districts. The new district plan for the Louisiana state senate seats was passed as Senate Bill 1 amended. As a resident of Louisiana, I am concerned that not only is the plan retrogressive for minority voters, but the redistricting process for these districts was conducted in a manner which negatively impacts the voting rights of minorities in this state. The legislature deliberately acted to dilute the minority voting power of my community and to guarantee that white incumbents were reelected. For example, in New Orleans and the surrounding areas, population was lost due to Hurricane Katrina, and thus the Louisiana Legislature proposed that two of the majority-minority state senate seats in that area be eliminated. The New Orleans area contains one of the highest performing majority-minority state senate seats (District 2), and it was eliminated for the sole purpose of protecting a white incumbent who sits in a low performing majority-minority senate district. This low performing district was barely touched during the redistricting process. We believe that the state was not redistricted in a manner that would ensure that minority voters were not worse off under the new plan. In other areas of the state, whites serving in majority-minority districts were allowed to adjust those districts to add areas that have low minority voter turnout to ensure their reelection. Lastly, new majority-minority districts were not created in the most viable areas. Only one new majority-minority district was created. The redistricting plan adopted did not have to be retrogressive for minority voters. The Louisiana Legislature had a better option before it. Senator Cynthia Willard-Lewis, an African-American senator, offered Senate Bill 33 amended, which redrew the senate districts in a manner that complied with the Voters Rights Act and ensured that minority-voting power throughout the state would not be diluted. I urge that you do not preclear Senate Bill 1 amended because it violates the Voting Rights Act and makes minority voters worse off.
Trupania Bonner is Executive Director of Moving Forward Gulf Coast, Inc., a community-based, advocacy organization with a mission to build stronger communities of Color with sustained civic engagement around the protection of human rights.
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