From left, State Sen. Jay Luneau (D-Alexandria) testifies on his redistricting proposal at the Senate and Governmental Affairs Committee on Thursday, Feb. 3, 2022. (Photo by Wes Muller/Louisiana Illuminator).
The chance Black Louisiana voters will see their votes for Congress reflect their share of the state’s population grew slimmer Friday after a state Senate committee killed five maps that proposed adding a second majority-Black district.
Several similar proposals remain in the Senate and House of Representatives that have yet to be considered.
With a 6-3 majority, GOP members on the Senate and Governmental Affairs Committee rejected the five maps Democrats proposed. They instead advanced a map from Sen. Sharon Hewitt, R-Slidell, that would largely maintain Louisiana’s current congressional makeup favoring white candidates in five of its six congressional districts.
Voter advocacy groups in Louisiana have called on lawmakers to draw a second majority-minority congressional district since 2020 Census figures were released last year. Those numbers show Louisiana’s white population fell 6.3% while its Black and mixed-Black population grew 3.8% since 2010. Black residents now comprise one-third of the state’s entire population.
Currently, Louisiana’s only minority stronghold is in the 2nd District, the seat held by Rep. Troy Carter, D-New Orleans, who is Black. Proposals from Senate Democrats would have created a second majority-Black district by moving a portion of the 2nd District to the 5th District, currently held by U.S. Rep. Julia Letlow, R-Monroe.
Hewitt’s map keeps just one minority stronghold in the 2nd District, which currently has a voter population that is 61% Black.
Drawing a second majority-minority district would result in voter populations that are about 54% Black in the 2nd and 5th districts. Hewitt said this was why she did not include it in her map. Repeating an argument she offered in committee Thursday, she said a second majority-minority district would not be able to “perform,” meaning not enough Black voters would turn out to elect a candidate of their choice.
Also on Friday, lawmakers in the House and Governmental Affairs committee advanced a map similar to Hewitt’s. The bill from House Speaker Clay Schexnayder, R-Gonzales. keeps just one minority stronghold in the 2nd District.
During discussion over Schexnayder’s proposal, several Black lawmakers asked the speaker if he considered adding a second majority-minority district into his map.
“This is just my attempt to put out a map that is fair,” Schexnayder said every time he was asked, calling the process a competition of ideas.
House Speaker Pro Tempore Tanner Magee, R-Houma, who testified in support of Schexnayder’s bill, said such questions from Black lawmakers were “for litigation purposes,” forecasting a possible lawsuit from groups that have called for an additional majority-minority congressional district if the legislature keeps the current makeup intact.
Staff writer J.C. Canicosa contributed to this report.
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