Louisiana senators kill 5 maps that would have favored Black candidates for Congress

Committees advance maps that maintain 5 white districts

By: - February 4, 2022 3:21 pm
State senators kill 5 maps that favored Black candidates for Congress

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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Wesley Muller
Wesley Muller

Wes Muller traces his journalism roots back to 1997 when, at age 13, he built and launched a hyper-local news website for his New Orleans neighborhood. In the years since then, he has freelanced for the Times-Picayune in New Orleans and worked on staff at the Sun Herald in Biloxi, WAFB-9News CBS in Baton Rouge, and the Enterprise-Journal in McComb, Mississippi. He also taught English as an adjunct instructor at Baton Rouge Community College. Among his recognitions are McClatchy's National President's Award, the Associated Press Freedom of Information Award, and the Daniel M. Phillips Freedom of Information Award from the Mississippi Press Association. Muller is an alumnus of Jesuit High School and the University of New Orleans and is a veteran U.S. Army paratrooper. He lives in Louisiana with his wife and two sons.

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