The Louisiana Senate and Governmental Affairs Committee meets to vote on Supreme Court maps. (JC Canicosa/Louisiana Illuminator)
A Louisiana Senate committee advanced a map of revised state Supreme Court districts Wednesday that maintains just one majority-minority district. The bill advanced on a 5-3 vote, with Black committee members opposed to the proposal.
Sen. Sharon Hewitt, R-Slidell, chairperson of the Senate and Governmental Affairs Committee and author of the map, said her bill adheres to the Voting Rights Act and “maintains the core of the prior districts, which none of the other maps that we’ve seen” do.
Hewitt’s map was amended by Sen. Ed Price, D-Gonzales, who is Black, to increase the Black voting population in the New Orleans-based district from 51% to 55%. The district is the only majority-minority district in Hewitt’s map.
“Now is the time to redistrict the Supreme Court, and this map is the best way to do that,” Hewitt said.
Louisiana’s Supreme Court districts were last reapportioned in 1997 based on 1991 Census data. While the law doesn’t compel the Legislature to redraw the court map every 10 years – as with other political subdivisions – lawmakers widely agree it was time to do so.
The ongoing debate over additional minority districts in Louisiana’s political maps has centered on the increase in the state’s minority population since the 2010 Census. Black residents account for 33% of Louisiana residents, and 40% identify as a minority.
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Hewitt said she doesn’t believe the “one person, one vote” standard in federal law applies to court districts because justices “don’t represent people, they serve people.”
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The committee rejected an amendment from Sen. Jay Luneau, D-Alexandria, that would have added a second majority-minority district to Hewitt’s map. Members also deferred two Supreme Court maps, both authored by Sen. Cleo Fields, D-Baton Rouge, that would have created a second majority-minority district based in Baton Rouge.
“How you (create a second majority-minority district) is of no moment to me,” Fields said during committee debate Tuesday. “But there should be no question as to whether or not you can do it.”
Supreme Court maps require a two-thirds vote from lawmakers to be approved, unlike the simple majority needed when new boundaries are set for other elected bodies.
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