Will Shreveport-Bossier preserve 4th Congressional District in next political map?

Greg Hilburn
Shreveport Times
The Louisiana Capitol

Louisiana lawmakers crafting the first draft of the once-in-a-decade drawing of new political boundaries brought their road show to Shreveport this week, the region that could see the most upheaval in a new map because of hemorrhaging population.

Political boundaries for every state office are redrawn every 10 years when a United States Census is completed, a process known as redistricting that occurs in every state.

Boundaries will be adjusted for every seat in Congress and on the Public Service Commission, Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, state Supreme Court, state Senate and state House depending on population shifts during the past decade.

Local:Caddo Commission discusses Caddo employees' parish residency

The Joint House and Senate Governmental Affairs Committee will make 10 listening tour stops across the state on its road show before going into a Special Session in February for the Legislature to redraw the maps. Gov. John Bel Edwards does have veto authority on the final map.

"Our goal is to make this as open and transparent as possible," Senate Governmental Affairs Chair Sharon Hewitt, R-Slidell, told the crowd Thursday night at the LSU-Shreveport University Theatre Center Theatre. "I can assure you your ideas and recommendations matter to me and matter to us."

House Governmental Affairs Chair John Stefanski, R-Crowley, echoed Hewitt. "We're taking everything you say seriously," he said.

Louisiana's congressional map tops the marquee and debate.

The state's slight overall population growth over the last 10 years preserved all six of the state's Congressional seats.

But there is potential for major shifts in their makeup, particularly in northern Louisiana, where some advocate for a single horizontal district across the top of the state rather the current vertical 4th District with Shreveport as the population hub and 5th District with Monroe as the population center.

Congressman Mike Johnson, R-Benton, represents the 4th District, while Congresswoman Julia Letlow, R-Start, represents the 5th District.

In money:Willis-Knighton Innovation Center, Rehabilitation Institute renamed for James K. Elrod

Many from the public also advocated Thursday for congressional boundary shifts that would create a second majority-minority district.

Though Blacks represent about a third of the state's population, New Orleans Congressman Troy Carter, a Democrat, is the only Black member of Louisiana's delegation. He represents the 2nd District, which was drawn as the only minority-majority district.

"It's your obligation to comply with the Voting Rights Act with two majority Black districts," said Victoria Wenger, an attorney with the NAACP Defense and Educational Fund.

The NAACP is part of a coalition advocating adding a second minority majority congressional district in Louisiana.

"We want to make sure the voices of all Louisianans have a fair chance to be represented," said Melissa Flournoy of Louisiana Progress.

Others advocated for preserving the existing concept of the congressional map even though the northern two sprawling 4th District and 5th District would have to take on even more territory to recoup population losses.

"We believe the current map that exists represents well the diversity and range of our communities and that tweaking them to expand adheres to our (goals)," said Tim Magner, president of the Greater Shreveport Chamber of Commerce.

Bossier Chamber of Commerce President Lisa Johnson said the two chambers are speaking in unison, saying it's critical to keep Barkdale Air Force Base in Bossier Parish and Fort Polk in central Louisiana in the same district.

Following is the remaining road show schedule: 

► Oct. 26: 5:30-8:30 p.m., University of Louisiana at Lafayette Atchafalaya Ballroom, Lafayette;

► Nov. 9: 5:30-8:30 p.m., LSU-Alexandria Ballroom, Alexandria

► Nov. 16: 5:30-8:30 p.m., Cotillion Ballroom, Southern University, Baton Rouge;

► Nov. 30: 5:30-8:30 p.m., Fuhrmann Auditorium, Covington;

► Dec. 15: 5:30-8:30 p.m., Tritico Theater, McNeese State University, Lake Charles;

► Jan. 5: 5:30-8:30 p.m., University Center, University of New Orleans, New Orleans;

► Jan. 11: 5:30-8:30 p.m., Cotillion Ballroom, Nicholls State University, Thibodaux;

► Jan. 20: 11 a.m., Louisiana State Capitol, Baton Rouge.

Greg Hilburn covers state politics for the USA TODAY Network of Louisiana. Follow him on Twitter @GregHilburn1.