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Federal judge intervenes with new congressional district map after failure from legislature

Louisiana State Capital
Louisiana State Capital(WVUE)
Published: Jun. 18, 2022 at 6:13 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - A federal judge will redraw the state’s congressional map after state lawmakers abruptly ended a special session two days early.

Saturday afternoon members of the Louisiana legislature decided there was no more moving forward with work to redraw the state’s congressional map.

Dillard University political analyst Robert Collins says, “I think we were surprised by the abrupt ending because we thought they would at least go through the motions and pretend to follow the judge’s order but no one is surprised by the result.”

On June 6, Federal Judge Shelly Dick ordered the special session saying lawmakers needed to add a second majority-black district or else she would redraw the map herself. Just four days into the six-day special session, talks grinded to a halt.

“The Republicans made it very clear that they had no incentive at all to vote in favor of a second black majority district,” Collins explained.

State Rep. Royce Duplessis, a democrat, says, “I think it’s disrespectful and quite frankly unacceptable that anybody especially a lawmaker could think they could leave this session without following a federal court order.”

“We had done the best we could with where we were and as Senator Ward said, we couldn’t get 20 votes to pass the bill. So at a certain point you just have to accept the fact that we’ve drawn what we believe is accurate is correct and is in the best interest of the state,” Republican State Sen. Cameron Henry said.

The concern is that black residents make up nearly one-third of the state’s population so they should have a chance to fill two of the six congressional seats.

The map approved earlier this year was vetoed by Gov. Edwards because he said it violated the voting rights act. Now the map’s creation will lie in the hands of Judge Dick.

Collins explains, “Now of course what the Republicans are hoping, they’re hoping and what they’re gambling on, is that that judge’s ruling is going to get overturned either by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeal or by the U.S. Supreme Court.”

If the 5th Circuit or the Supreme Court allow the judge’s ruling to stand, Collins explains, “Then it’s game over. I mean at that point in time, they’ll have to implement whatever map that Judge Dick implements.”

Collins believes Judge Dick will present a new map, that she has drawn, within the coming days.

Gov. Edwards released a statement following the failure of the Louisiana Legislature to draw a second majority African-American congressional district as ordered by the U.S. Middle District court.

“It is disappointing that after every opportunity to do the right thing and create a second majority African-American Congressional district as ordered by the U.S. Court for the Middle District, the Legislature has once again failed to do so. The current map passed by legislators violates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. That is why I vetoed it. According to the latest U.S. Census, Louisiana’s voting population is one-third Black, which means that our congressional map of six districts should contain at least two majority African-American districts so long as they can be drawn in a manner that satisfies the legal principles governing redistricting. As properly found by the trial court, it is indeed possible. Sadly, the Legislature has now twice rejected just such a map. As you’ve heard me say before, this is a matter of simple math, basic fairness, and the rule of law. The irony of all ironies is that for the first time yesterday, Louisiana recognized Juneteenth as an official state holiday. And today, on the actual holiday, which celebrates the day when enslaved Americans learned of their freedom, it is clear that our African-American brothers and sisters are still fighting for fair representation. Louisiana, we can and should do better than this.”

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