BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — The Louisiana Legislature has until Jan. 15 to pass a new congressional map after a lower court ruled last year that current political boundaries dilute the power of black voters of the state, a federal appeals court in New Orleans said. said Friday.
However, that the current Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards will call a special session to redraw political boundaries and whether the elected Republican governor Jeff Landrywhich will be inaugurated on January 8, will have enough time to call a special redistricting session and meet the court-ordered deadline that has not yet been determined.
If the Legislature does not adopt a new map by mid-January, the lower district court should then conduct a trial and “decide on a plan for the 2024 elections,” according to the court’s order. American appeal for the Fifth District.
The political tug of war and legal battle over Louisiana’s GOP-drawn congressional map has been going on for more than a year and a half — which includes Edwards’ veto of political boundaries and the fact that the Assembly legislative overrides its veto, the first time in almost a year. Three decades of lawmakers refusing to accept a governor’s rejection of a bill they passed.
Louisiana is among the states still fighting over congressional districts after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June that Alabama violated the Voting Rights Act.
Louisiana’s current map, which was used in the November legislative elections, shows a white majority in five of six districts, although blacks make up a third of the state’s population.
Republicans, who dominate the Louisiana Legislature, believe the map is fair. They argue that the state’s black populations are too dispersed to be united into a second majority-black district.
Democrats argue that the map discriminates against black voters and that there should be two majority-minority districts. Currently, five of the six districts are held by Republicans. Another majority-black district could offer Democrats a second congressional seat.
In June 2022, a lower court invalidated Louisiana’s map for violating the Voting Rights Act. U.S. District Judge Shelly Dick said in her ruling that “the evidence of Louisiana’s long and continuing history of voting discrimination weighs heavily in plaintiffs’ favor.” Dick ordered the map redrawn to include a second majority-black district, before it was appealed to the 5th Circuit.
In October, the Supreme Court rejected an emergency appeal from Louisiana’s black voters to speed up the process of creating new congressional districts in the state.
Lawmakers now have until mid-January to draw and adopt a new map, which is expected to be done during a special session.
A special session may be called by the governor or convened by the speakers of both houses, upon written request of most of the elected members of the House and Senate.
Although Edwards has not said whether he will call a special session, he remains adamant about the need for a second majority-black district to accurately represent the state.
“It’s about simple math, fundamental fairness and the rule of law,” Edwards said in a written statement.
U.S. Rep. Troy Carter, the state’s only Black Democratic member of Congress, said he “sincerely” hopes the Legislature will draw a new map with a second majority-Black district. Carter posted on X, formerly known as Twitter, to urge lawmakers to “do the right thing” and that “there is no need to wait for a court to force compliance clear law.”
If Gov.-elect Landry calls a special session, the timing will be tricky because Landry won’t be inaugurated until Jan. 8 and the session can’t begin until seven days after the proclamation is issued, meaning the first lawmakers could return. at the Capitol is the deadline of January 15. Landry could not be reached for comment.
However, the appeals court’s order states that the district court will have the discretion to grant “limited additional time” if requested.