Local News St Landry Parish

Parish Could Achieve Stability in New Minority District

BOBBY ARDOIN Editor/Consulting Writer

A newly-created Congressional minority voting district that includes St. Landry Parish could ultimately provide local voters with a chance for more representative stability in national politics.

When the lines were finally approved by a state legislative and senate committee on Friday, the entire parish was included in District 6 which is currently represented by Republican Congressman Garrett Graves of Baton Rouge.

At this point 53 percent of the District 6 constituents will be classified as minority voters who live in a narrow strip of parishes that stretch from Caddo to portions of East Baton Rouge.

If the redrawn lines remain judicially unchallenged, it will mark the third time in six years that St. Landry has undergone a change in Congressional representation in Washington, D.C.

Most of the parish was in District 5, represented by Republican Julia Letlow. Then last year St. Landry was moved into District 4 whose representative is Republican Mike Johnson, the current speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Under the new District configuration, Letlow and Johnson were able to maintain much of the integrity inside their current boundaries.

The new District lines approved without much opposition from state lawmakers, are expected to be signed into law by new governor Jeff Landry.

Landry and state officials didn’t have much choice.

U.S. Judge Shelly Dick, an Obama administration appointee, gave the state until the end of January to devise new voting lines that include two minority districts. The other minority district developed by the plan approved on Friday includes portions of the New Orleans area now represented by Democrat Troy Carter.

Landry said publicly that he wanted the state to settle the matter rather than transfer the issue “into the hands of an appointed judge.”

The new configuration however dilutes the minority voting impact in the district represented by Carter to 51 percent.

Dick plans to eventually review the newly-drawn voting lines before deciding whether to sign off on the legislation.

St. Landry Has Been Carved Up

Louisiana Supreme Court Justice Jimmy Genovese of Opelousas, told the city’s noon Rotary Club members last Tuesday that state representation in St. Landry has been too frequently sliced up over the past several decades.

Genovese, who represents District 3 on the Court, recalled an era when St. Landry had an identifiable state legislation led by Senator Armand Brinkhaus and State Representative Sal Diesi.

Much of the parish is represented by District 40 representative Dustin Miller. However, portions of St. Landry include three other lawmakers providing representation in the House and another three in the State Senate.

Genovese said “it’s very important” that all the state Congressional voting districts achieve a racial balance and reflect an average of 650,000 voters inside each District.

“It’s an important matter to redistrict the state. Slightly more than 32 percent of the state voters are African American and there (was) only one minority district. The federal judge basically told the state that if you won’t do it, then I will do it for you,” Genovese said.

State Supreme Court Representation

The Louisiana Supreme Court, which exercises discretionary review of lower court decisions, currently has only one Black member, Genovese said.

There is currently a pending federal lawsuit which is petitioning to redraw the current lines of the State Supreme Court in order to guarantee more minority representation.

Genovese, who has been a Supreme Court Justice for eight years, said he will probably retire before his current term ends in 2026.