Redistricting plan would take Senate seats from N.O. - Family Forum, black senator team up

Robert Travis Scott
February 18, 2010

A religious-conservative group and an African-American state lawmaker from Opelousas have teamed up to propose new legislative boundaries that likely would reduce the number of African-American senators representing New Orleans and increase them elsewhere in the state.

Critics immediately decried the plan as a premature strike on New Orleans' power base in the capital in anticipation of next year's redistricting process.

Louisiana Family Forum Action and Sen. Elbert Guillory, D-Opelousas, on Wednesday released their "demographic equity plan," which attempts to redraw the state's 39 Senate political districts based on the expectation of population loss in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.

"The Guillory-Forum plan represents a seismic shift: moving majority black districts out of New Orleans in favor of a balanced, equitable distribution throughout the state," the plan said.

Many observers expect New Orleans to lose seats when the Legislature next spring refashions Louisiana's 10-year-old political map with new population data from the 2010 census. But the extent of the city's population loss will not be known until the census figures are released in December, and even then the results could be contested.

Forum President Gene Mills said their plan is based on the most recently available census estimates from 2008 and that the proposal could be modified when the new data are available.

"We are here to assist and advise," Mills said. "So this is really an early conversation over how we might present a statewide demographic equity plan."

Under the plan, each senate district would have between 112,000 and 114,000 people.

The number of senate districts with a majority of African-American residents would remain the same at 10. Currently, white men represent two of those districts, in the Algiers area and northeast Louisiana.

The forum plan would create three new districts with majority African-American residents, in Acadiana, the Bayou-River Parish regions and in central Louisiana. It would also create two majority white-resident districts in the Baton Rouge and Tangipahoa Parish regions. Districts in north Louisiana would be largely unaffected.

The proposal would consolidate the 4th and 5th Senate districts in New Orleans, now represented by Democrats Edwin Murray and Sen.-elect Karen Carter Peterson. It also would combine the 2nd and 3rd districts, whose seats are held by Democrats Ann Duplessis and J.P. Morrell.

Murray said it is entirely possible that New Orleans will lose seats because of population loss, "but you don't know for sure until we get the final numbers."

With so many serious issues to face in the upcoming spring session, the Legislature does not need the distraction of controversial and divisive redistricting proposals when that battle can be fought next year, Murray said.

"The timing is really, really bad going into a session," Murray said. "I really don't think this serves a good public purpose."

The plan can be seen at