Louisiana Lawmakers Told to Come Up With New District Map
NEW ORLEANS — A federal appeals court on Friday held that the latest iteration of Louisiana’s congressional district map continues to likely violate the Voting Rights Act by diluting the power of Black voters.
The decision handed down by a three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upholds a lower court ruling.
The court ordered the state Legislature to come up with a proper alternative by Jan. 15 so that the new map can be used in the 2024 congressional elections.
The case is just the latest to emerge from a southern state in which Republican lawmakers are accused of using race to manipulate district lines in their favor.
In June, the U.S. Supreme Court determined Alabama had diluted the power of Black voters by failing to include a second minority-majority district in its map.
Last month, a federal judge in Georgia concluded Peach State lawmakers had done the same thing, ordering them to redraw the map in time for use in the 2024 election.
The 5th Circuit relied on the Supreme Court decision in coming to its conclusions.
Complicating the process of getting a new map together in time for the next election is the fact the Louisiana Legislature is currently not in session.
The state’s outgoing Democratic governor, John Bel Edwards, has not said whether he will call for a special session before he leaves office.
All he said in a statement released after the 5th Circuit ruling was that he remains “confident that we will have a fair map with two majority Black districts before the congressional elections next year.”
If Edwards doesn’t act, it means the process will be on hold until after Jeff Landry, the state’s Republican governor-elect, is inaugurated on Jan. 8, just seven days before the court-appointed deadline.
If Louisiana lawmakers cannot approve a new congressional district map by the deadline, the 5th Circuit panel said it would direct the lower court to hold a trial and decide on its own map for the 2024 election.
The result would be that state lawmakers would have no say in the map created by the courts.
The controversy began in the late winter of 2022, when the Republican-led Legislature adopted a map that favored its majority party.
In March 2022, Edwards vetoed the map, having concluded that it violated Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act and “is not in line with the principle of fundamental fairness that should have driven” the mapmaking process.
The legislature overrode Edward’s veto, promoting a coalition of activists and Louisiana voters to challenge it in court.
Last summer, a federal judge in Louisiana ruled that the map had been racially gerrymandered and ordered the lawmakers to create a second district that had a majority of Black voters. The Legislature has been slow-walking the creation of a new map, which would change the balance of power in Congress, ever since.