Louisiana has had 11 constitutions since it was admitted to the union in 1812. Its present constitution (1975) replaced the constitution of 1921, which had been amended more than 500 times. The state's executive branch is headed by a governor elected for a four-year term and allowed one reelection. Louisiana's bicameral legislature has a senate with 39 members and a house of representatives with 105 members, all elected for four-year terms. Louisiana is the only state to call its counties parishes, a holdover from the Spanish religious divisions. The state elects two senators and six representatives to the U.S. Congress and has eight electoral votes.
Almost solidly Democratic between 1877 and the 1990s, Louisiana has had a more turbulent political climate in recent years; in 1990 former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke made a strong showing as an unsuccessful Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate. In 1987, Edwin E. Edwards was defeated in his reelection bid by a conservative Democrat (who later switched to the Republican party), Buddy Roemer. Before Roemer's conversion, all but one of Louisiana's governors since 1877 had been Democratic. In the 1991 gubernatorial election, Roemer finished behind Edwards and Duke, who faced each other in a runoff, which Edwards won. He retired in 1995 and was succeeded by conservative Republican Mike Foster, who was reelected in 1999. Kathleen Blanco, a conservative Democrat, became the first woman to be elected governor in 2003. Politically damaged by the post-Katrina turmoil she did not run in 2007, and Bobby Jindal, a Republican and the son of Indian immigrants, was elected governor, becoming the first nonwhite to win the post.
Among the state's more prominent institutions of higher learning are Tulane Univ., the Univ. of New Orleans, Dillard Univ., Southern Univ., and Loyola Univ., all at New Orleans; Louisiana State Univ. and Agricultural and Mechanical College, mainly at Baton Rouge; the Univ. of Louisiana at Lafayette; Grambling State Univ., at Grambling; and Louisiana Tech Univ., at Ruston.