Monday, August 18, 2008

La. Senate Secretary Glenn Koepp Hopes to Keep Racial Quotas in Redistricting

According to an article in the BR Advocate, an upcoming U.S. Supreme Court case from North Carolina asks the questions:

Does a district have to be crafted so that a racial minority has at least a 50 percent majority to avoid claims that black voting strength is being diluted? Or can state legislators comply with federal law by drawing a district with no racial majority but where a “realistic opportunity” exists for a minority candidate to be elected because of reliable white crossover voting?

If the Court approves the second option, then states would be able to base their redistricting plans less on race and more on other relevant factors (e.g., natural geography, municipal boundaries).

It seems like a reasonable step toward sanity and away from racial gerrymandering in the redistricting process.

Also, it needn't lessen the number of black legislators:

“The 50 percent rule imposes a racial quota on the Voting Rights Act,” said Sam Hirsch, a Washington, D.C., lawyer who filed arguments in the case for the League of Women Voters of the United States.

Twenty-one black legislators are in Congress — elected from non-black-majority districts, Hirsch said. “Let’s hope the Supreme Court does not put a strait jacket on you,” he told a packed room of lawmakers from across the nation.

However, Louisiana Senate Secretary Glenn Koepp seems to be hoping that the Court keeps the 50 percent rule in place:

“If the court takes away the bright-line, 50-percent district, there’s no way for us as a Legislature to perfect a redistricting plan,” said Koepp, the Senate secretary. “We’ll get sued. No matter what we do, somebody is going to be able to show you can do it better.”

Koepp said that going the coalition-district route would “give all of the attorneys and political scientists out there the fodder to second-guess us and file suit against anything we do.”

Think about what Koepp is saying. He's willing to sacrifice state sovereignty so that the state legislature can keep passing the buck on the racial aspect of redistricting.

Mr. Koepp is right about one thing. Attorneys and political scientists and even ordinary citizens might second-guess what he does. He's a public employee, so he should be used to that.

However, if the Court discards the 50 percent rule, then it will surely replace it with instructions on what the states must use in its place. The new rule might be more nuanced than the old one. It might require state legislatures to use some common sense, rather than just applying a mathematical formula aimed at creating districts based exclusively on race.

Yes, someone might sue. If they do, then face the lawsuit and argue the state's case in court.

The federal courts are finally showing some signs of abandoning federally-mandated racial quotas in redistricting. Let's hope milquetoast state employees don't stop that long-awaited reform.

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