The Louisiana Legislature approved new district lines for the state’s seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. (Image courtesy of Louisiana Legislature)
Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards has vetoed a map of Louisiana’s congressional districts that the Republican-dominated Legislature approved last month, his office announced Wednesday evening. The governor has approved new maps for the state school board and utility regulatory body.
The Congress map lawmakers approved retained a majority of white voters in five of Louisiana’s six districts, despite Census data that show the state’s Black population has increased to 33% since 2010. Multiple attempts from Democrats in the Legislature to add a second Black-majority district failed to advance from redistricting committees in the House and Senate. Only the 2nd Congressional District, which includes portions of New Orleans and Baton Rouge, currently has a Black representative.
“This map is simply not fair to the people of Louisiana and does not meet the standards set forth in the federal Voting Rights Act,” Edwards said in a statement. “The Legislature should immediately begin the work of drawing a map that ensures Black voices can be properly heard in the voting booth. It can be done and it should be done.”
Civil rights groups and voter advocates have indicated they would file lawsuit to challenge maps that don’t reflect the state’s minority population. The governor’s veto – and efforts to override it – will likely affect the timeline of any litigation.
Edwards also announced he will not sign the state House and Senate redistricting proposals lawmakers passed, allowing them to become law without his approval. The GOP-driven maps for statehouse districts accounted for population losses and gains in different parts of the state, but they didn’t increase the number of majority-minority districts.
The governor explained he chose not to veto the legislative maps because redrawing them would add to an already full workload for the Legislature once its members convene for their regular session Monday.
“While neither the congressional or legislative maps passed by Louisiana’s Legislature do anything to increase the number of districts where minority voters can elect candidates of their choosing, I do not believe the Legislature has the ability to draw new state House and Senate maps during this upcoming legislative session without the process halting the important work of the state of Louisiana,” Edwards said in the statement. “At a time when we face unprecedented challenges, but have unprecedented opportunities to make historic investments in our future, the Legislature should be focused on the issues in the upcoming session and not concerned about what their own districts will look like in the 2023 elections.”
The governor did sign maps for the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education and the Louisiana Public Service Commission, neither of which added minority districts. “I believe those maps provide a fairer representation of Louisiana than the other maps that were passed,” Edwards’ statement said.
Republican leaders in the Legislature also offered a new map for the Louisiana Supreme Court during last month’s redistricting session. It also retained the racial status quo among the eight districts, but a final vote on the proposal wasn’t held when it became evident there wasn’t the two-thirds support needed in the House for approval. The other redistricting maps only needed a simple majority for passage.
Today, I am announcing my veto of the congressional redistricting map drawn by the Legislature as well as my actions on other newly drawn maps.
— John Bel Edwards (@LouisianaGov) March 10, 2022
I am disappointed in the Governor's decision to veto the congressional map & am confident that the map the legislature passed meets the requirements of the Voting Rights Act.
— Sharon Hewitt (@sharonhewitt) March 10, 2022
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