Although the results of the 2010 Census are not yet official, preliminary numbers appear to confirm early fears that Louisiana will lose a congressional seat as a result of reapportionment next year. Louisiana had eight seats in Congress before the 2000 Census, but lost one seat afterward as a result of out-migration. Continued loss of population, particularly after the 2005 hurricanes, is likely to cost the state yet another seat, dropping its total to six seats by 2012.
The official Census numbers are set to be released in December, but a recent estimate and analysis done for the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) shows Louisiana as one of eight states losing one seat each. New York and Ohio stand to lose two seats each. The big gainers are expected to be Texas, which stands to gain four seats, and Florida, which could gain two seats. Six other states appear likely to gain one seat each.
The study for NCSL was done by Esri, a national GIS and demographics consulting company. Esri used U.S. Census Bureau population estimates and its own additional research to track and project population trends.
According to Esri’s analysis, Louisiana’s latest population figure will be slightly more than 4.5 million when the new Census numbers are released. The median population for a congressional district will be approximately 715,000.
Once the official Census figures are released, individual state legislatures must redraw districts for local, state and federal offices. Louisiana lawmakers are expected to convene in a special session early next year to deal with reapportionment issues. In addition to losing a congressional seat, state legislative seats are going to be significantly reshuffled as a result of post-Katrina population shifts. In that reshuffling, New Orleans is likely to lose at least one state Senate seat and up to three state House seats.
To complicate things further, Louisiana is a Voting Rights Act state, which means all new district boundaries are subject to review by the U.S. Justice Department, which must “pre-clear” new district boundaries before elections can be held in those new districts. The new district lines also can be challenged in court — as they have been many times in the past.