March 10, 2020

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Stephen Kearny, Co-Founder, Fair Districts Louisiana // fairdistrictslouisiana@gmail.com // 225-235-7955

Contact: Peter Robins-Brown, Communications Director, Power Coalition for Equity and Justice, prb@powercolaition.org, 504-256-8196

 

Fair Districts Louisiana, Power Coalition

Introduce Election Integrity Package

Today, Fair Districts Louisiana and the Power Coalition for Equity and Justice unveiled the 2020 Election Integrity Package, a collection of five bills that will increase confidence in the state’s election system and ensure that the best available tools and techniques are used to redraw Louisiana’s districts after the 2020 census. 

The bills in the Election Integrity Package include:

  1. H.B. 623, co-sponsored by Rep. Aimee Adatto Freeman & Rep. Barry Ivey: Creates an 18-member, bipartisan redistricting study and advisory commission to study best practices in redistricting and make recommendations to the legislature.
  2. H.B. 565, sponsored by Rep. Barry Ivey. Creates a state-run redistricting transparency website that provides a wide range of information on redistricting, including real-time updates, data, redistricting rules and laws, and a portal for public comment.
  3. H.B. 625, co-sponsored by Rep. Ted James and Rep. Aimee Adatto Freeman. Ends prison gerrymandering. For the purposes of redistricting, incarcerated people will be counted at their last known address, as opposed to their current place of incarceration.
  4. H.B. 419, sponsored by Rep. Mandie Landry. Provides for unrestricted voting by mail. Allows every Louisianan to vote by mail and requires the state to provide pre-paid postage on absentee ballots.
  5. H.B. 576, sponsored by Rep. Matthew Willard. Reforms voter registration list maintenance. Defines new rules for managing the inactive voter list and for voter purges.

The package came out of a rigorous analysis of the entire system by which Louisiana chooses its leaders, including voter registration, the voting process itself, and redistricting. As part of that analysis, we identified the system’s most urgent needs and researched associated best practices. In consultation with numerous legislators and experts, we determined that these five bills best address these needs and should be given priority during the 2020 spring session. 

On the bill to create a redistricting study and advisory commission, Rep. Freeman of New Orleans said, “As a new member of the state legislature, I believe it’s particularly important that all Louisiana citizens have the most up-to-date information on the redistricting process and changes in technology since 2010. With more resources for the general public and legislators alike on redistricting, we can expect greater transparency. Redistricting is a complex process, and the study and advisory commission will help ensure fairly drawn districts that represent the diverse constituency of Louisiana.” 

“Transparency in the redistricting process is critical,” according to Rep. Barry Ivey, of Central. “I am excited to bring HB 565 that will provide a portal where the people of Louisiana can engage and stay informed throughout the redistricting process. The purpose of transparency is to bring about accountability, but that only happens when the public engages. I hope the web portal can be a tool that will help make the act and process of public engagement as convenient as possible.”

About the bill to provide for unrestricted voting by mail, Rep. Mandie Landry of New Orleans said, “In Louisiana, we should make voting as easy as possible. I’m excited to partner with Fair Districts Louisiana and the Power Coalition for Equity and Justice to provide for universal voting by mail. This bill is a big step to help voters in rural areas who live far from early voting sites and service industry and shift workers whose schedules make voting in person difficult. And with COVID-19 now officially in Louisiana, this would be an important public health measure for voters and poll workers.”

The first three bills are intended to improve redistricting transparency and help educate the public and elected officials about redistricting. With the census currently under way and a redistricting special session likely to take place in early 2021, it is critical that the legislature begins to tackle this complex topic right now. Louisiana’s congressional, legislative, state school board, and state supreme court districts have all become significantly malapportioned since the last time they were redrawn. Redrawing them with respect for proportionality, responsiveness, competitiveness, and community will improve the functioning of our democracy.   

The last two bills listed above address voter registration and voting. They will help increase voting access and alleviate public concern over so-called voter purges, while ensuring safeguards exist to prevent voter fraud. 

Fair Districts Louisiana is a grass-roots, non-partisan, 501 (c)(4) alliance of citizens advocating for redistricting reform. Its members are motivated by the belief that free and fair elections are the bedrock of American democracy. In an era of partisanship, they believe that bolstering our democracy should transcend party or ideology.

The Power Coalition for Equity and Justice is a coalition of community-based organizations who work together to educate and empower voters across Louisiana. Through its voter engagement and community organizing work, it seeks to unify our collective voices into a stronger, more cohesive force that can successfully advocate for an agenda of shared values and issues.

Fair Districts Louisiana and the Power Coalition have partnered together for the 2020 redistricting cycle and invite other like-minded groups to join us in this important work.