Louisiana Lawmakers Push for More Time on Redistricting

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On Sunday, a federal appeals court in New Orleans lifted its stay of a lower district court’s ruling that declared Louisiana’s recently-redrawn congressional map racially gerrymandered, putting them in violation of the Voting Rights Act. Under the lower court’s order, lawmakers had until June 20th to submit new maps that include a second majority-Black congressional district.

“The evidence of Louisiana’s long and ongoing history of voting-related discrimination weighs heavily in favor of Plaintiffs,” wrote U.S. District Judge Shelly Dick in her ruling.

Every 10 years, state lawmakers redraw the political districts for seats in the U.S. House, state House, state Senate, Board of Elementary and Secondary Education and Public Service Commission based on data from the latest census. In 2020, the U.S. Census found that 56% of Louisiana’s population is white, 31% is Black, and nearly 7% is Latino or Hispanic, and northern and rural parishes lost population, while the southern cities and parishes grew. In spite of that, the maps passed by the legislature in February maintained two districts in the state’s northern region. Gov. John Bel Edwards had originally vetoed those new congressional maps, however, the legislature overrode the veto – the first successful veto override in nearly three decades.

“This is a big step in the right direction for the people of Louisiana, and I’m thankful to the U.S 5th Circuit for lifting the stay,” Gov. John Bel Edwards said in a press release. “This has always been a straightforward case of simple math, simple fairness and the rule of law. According to the U.S. Census, African Americans make up nearly one-third of the voting population in Louisiana, and therefore, we should have a second majority-minority congressional district.”

Although a six-day special redistricting session started Wednesday, legislatures are hoping to delay the process, waiting on an appeal filed by Louisiana Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin. That hearing is set for July 8. In the meantime, Senate President Page Cortez and House Speaker Clay Schexnayder filed a motion on Monday asking for at least 10 more days to comply with the redistricting order. Committees are not set to begin hearing map proposals until Thursday and Friday.

“It concerns me that we are now being asked to redo in just five days something that we passed by over two-thirds of both bodies after a very long year of work,” Schexnayder said. He also called the session “premature and unnecessary until the legal process has played out.”

Before the start of the special legislative session, Rep. Troy Carter called on the Legislature to act in good faith.

“I am the only member in the Louisiana delegation with a majority-minority congressional district,” Carter said. “But in a state that is 1/3 Black, it shouldn’t be that way. As the Louisiana Legislature begins their special redistricting session today. I’m calling for the Louisiana legislature to draw fair maps that follow the Voting Rights Act and create a second majority-minority congressional district. An attack on fair representation anywhere is an attack on fair representation everywhere.”

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