Judge Tosses Congressional Map in Louisiana Citing Racial Gerrymander

June 7, 2022 by Dan McCue
Judge Tosses Congressional Map in Louisiana Citing Racial Gerrymander
FILE - Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards speaks during a news conference in Baton Rouge, La., on Feb. 1, 2022. (AP Photo/Matthew Hinton, File)

BATON ROUGE, La. — A federal judge struck down Louisiana’s newly adopted congressional district map, ruling it must be redrawn to include a second district that gives Black voters the opportunity to elect a candidate of their choice.

U.S. District Judge Shelly Dick of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana went on to order the state’s Republican-controlled Legislature to produce a revised map for consideration by June 20.

If it fails to do so, Dick said she would “issue additional orders to enact a remedial plan compliant with the laws and Constitution of the United States.”

As a result of her decisions regarding the map, Dick, who was appointed to the bench by former President Barack Obama, also extended the filing deadline for House candidates, now set for June 22, to July 8.

The ruling is expected to be appealed, but if it stands, political observers say it will likely result in a gain of a House seat for the Democrats in this hotly contested midterm year.

The map in question was adopted in March after the legislature overrode a veto by Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards.

The map had retained Republicans’ advantage in five of the state’s six congressional districts, keeping the 2nd Congressional District, which encompasses both Baton Rouge and New Orleans, as the only majority Black district, and the only district to favor Democrats.

In his veto message, Edwards said the map was “simply not fair to the people of Louisiana and does not meet the standards set forth in the federal Voting Rights Act.”

Dick agreed, finding that the map illegally packed Black voters into one congressional district, and by doing so, diluted the voting power of the Black voters in the remaining five districts.

The judge also said in her ruling that despite the changes she mandated, Louisiana should still be able to hold its primary election, as scheduled, on Nov. 8 and its general election in December.

According to the 2020 census, Louisiana is currently home to about 4.6 million people, 57.1% are White and 31.4% are Black. In addition, the latest census showed that the state’s Black population had grown by 3.8% in the preceding decade, while the White population had declined by 6.3%.

Black state legislators had argued for a second district in redistricting hearings last fall, with Ted James, at the time a state representative who led the Legislative Black Caucus, saying flatly that “one-third of six is two.”

Dan can be reached at [email protected] and at https://twitter.com/DanMcCue.

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