Louisiana case may signal changes in Southern state delegations

Published 1:55 pm Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Louisiana case may signal changes in Southern state delegations
By Sid Salter
In a Louisiana congressional redistricting case, the Supreme Court decided last week to allow
the state to use congressional maps that created a second Black majority district among the
state’s six total districts.
The high court case was brought when white voters objected to the new district based on what
they called “a brutal racial gerrymander” that ignored basic principles of congressional district
mapmaking like compactness, communities of interest and oddly shaped districts.
NAACP officials and other proponents of the map the Supreme Court approved for Louisiana,
with a Black population percentage (33.13%) that mirrors Mississippi’s (33.03%), argued that
two-of-six U.S. House districts with Black majorities would make for more equitable
congressional elections in the state.
Louisiana Democrats like the chances of the new district impacting partisan control of the U.S.
House in their favor while Republicans were left with the knowledge that the new map was
drawn, in part, to protect the Louisiana U.S. House districts represented by Republican House
Speaker Mike Johnson, GOP House Majority Leader Steve Scalise and other current GOP
The Louisiana court decision begs the question of whether states with similar demographics and
both similar historical under-representation of minorities and similar partisan majorities may see
increasing efforts to increase minority districts in states trending toward minority-majority
Louisiana currently has a 55.8% white majority statewide while Mississippi has a 55.4% white
majority. But since 2017, both states have been projected to have populations of children that
are majority-minority.
Demographic projections estimate that the entire country could be majority-minority by the
middle of this century, with forecasts differing on reaching that milestone from 2046 to 2050.
Closer to home, Mississippi already has 25 of 82 counties that are majority-minority Black and
seven more counties that are majority-minority with no dominant group.
Interestingly, the impact of the Louisiana Legislature’s drawing of the congressional lines in a
manner to protect their powerful House members and those on the “money” committees was
mirrored in Mississippi’s congressional redistricting – but in a different partisan direction.
To be sure, Louisiana’s larger population guaranteed them two more House districts than we
have in Mississippi – and made it more politically feasible to create a second Black majority
district despite objections from white voters.
But in Mississippi, state legislators engaged in congressional redistricting that expanded the
geography of Democratic U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson’s Second District – the state’s only Black
majority district to create a sprawling district that stretches north and south some 284 miles from
Tunica to Woodville – while keeping the veteran Democrat’s Black voting age population north
of 60 percent.
Why? Thompson has fought to keep Black voting age population or BVAP high in the Second
District to protect his political base. The demographic shifts necessary to make that political

math work conversely serve to protect the conservative Republican majorities enjoyed by
Republican U.S. Reps. Trent Kelly, Michael Guest and Mike Ezell in their districts.
Protecting Thompson’s district would make drawing a second Black majority district in
Mississippi difficult, even more so dividing those numbers over four rather than six districts.
Overall population gains sufficient to gain a fifth U.S. House seat for the state is about the only
factor that would significantly change the state’s demographic trends.
Long term, U.S. and Mississippi politics will bend to the inevitable impacts of the ebb and flow of
demographics. Coalitions will evolve with majority-minority realities. What should be of concern
to all Mississippians is the need to grow our population. A stagnant or declining population will
reduce our state’s voice in Congress – as it did in 2003 when the state dropped from five House
seats to four.
Sid Salter is a syndicated columnist. Contact him at sidsalter@sidsalter.com.

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