UPDATES: 2022 Louisiana Legislature veto override session

The latest news from the Louisiana Legislature

By: - March 30, 2022 12:17 pm
Louisiana House of Representatives

Louisiana lawmakers have convened a veto override session at the State Capitol to pushed through a Republican-backed congressional redistricting map that Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards vetoed. (Photo by

Louisiana lawmakers have gathered for a veto override session at the State Capitol where they need to get two-thirds of members behind a Republican-backed map of the state’s six congressional districts. Gov. John Bel Edwards vetoed two versions of the map that legislators approved in February’s special redistricting session, insisting they don’t fairly represent increases in Louisiana’s Black population.

Be sure to check here regularly for updates on the override efforts.

Read the governor’s veto message

8 months ago

Lawsuit filed to challenge Congress redistricting map in Louisiana veto override

Only a couple of hours after the Louisiana Legislature voted to override Gov. John Bel Edwards’ veto of a congressional map that didn’t expand minority representation, a lawsuit has been filed that claims the map violates federal law.

A statement from NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund said a lawsuit has been filed in federal court in Baton Rouge to stop Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin, the state’s top election official, from recognizing the maps for this fall’s congressional elections. Other plaintiffs include the American Civil Liberties Union, Power Coalition for Equity and Justice and five individual voters.

“The Congressional map passed by the Louisiana Legislature in February rejected basic principles of fairness and equity,”  NAACP Louisiana State Conference president Michael McClanahan said in the statement. “The Legislature knew that they could pass a map that complied with the Voting Rights Act and honored the will of community members who stood up and spoke out for fair maps during the redistricting process. When they failed to, the governor rightfully vetoed their unlawful and unfair map. We are going to federal court to demand a map that honors the rights and representation of Black Louisianans. We will be tireless in this fight.”

“People from every corner of Louisiana made their voices heard in the redistricting process in a unified call for fair and representative maps,” said Ashley Shelton, President and CEO of Power Coalition for Equity and Justice. “They demanded a second majority-Black Congressional district because the math is simple, and the law is clear. One-third of Louisiana voters are Black. One-third of six is two. The Voting Rights Act requires that Black voters have an equal opportunity to participate in our political processes, and our maps must reflect this. The Governor did the right thing by vetoing the map and we hope the courts will now intervene to right the wrongs of the Legislature. The People of Louisiana deserve maps that represent all of us and no longer drown out the voices of Black voters.”

“The map vetoed by the Governor was unlawful and unfair,” LDF Policy Counsel Jared Evans said in the statement. “It clearly violated the Voting Rights Act of 1965 by diluting the voices of Louisiana’s one-third Black voting population. The Legislature never should have passed an unlawful map, and we will not rest until a fair and representative map is enforced for the voters of Louisiana.”

“Black Louisianans deserve fair and equal representation. It is unconscionable that the Louisiana legislature is so determined to preserve the racial status quo that they issued just the third veto override in the state’s history rather than take the opportunity to draw a fair map,” said Stuart C. Naifeh, LDF’s Manager of the Redistricting Project.

“We are challenging these maps because they illegally undermine the political strength of Black voters in Louisiana,” ACLU attorney Alora Thomas-Lundborg said. “These maps run contrary to the principle of a representative democracy and clearly violate the Voting Rights Act.”

“I am disappointed that the Legislature voted to override the governor’s veto, but not at all surprised. I disagree strongly with the Legislature’s decision, and I believe that it is necessary to defend my right to vote – and the rights of all Black Louisianans – by taking this to the courts,” said Press Robinson, the complaint’s lead plaintiff. “I believe that the Voting Rights Act is intended to stop actions just like this, and I am not afraid to advocate for myself and the rights of my community.”

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8 months ago

Gov. Edwards ‘not surprised’ by Legislature’s override of congressional map veto

By: - 3:05 pm

Gov. John Bel Edwards, flanked by Black state lawmakers at a press conference Wednesday, said “basic math” and “basic fairness” dictate that the state should have another majority-minority district in Congress. Census figures show Black residents make up nearly 33% of Louisiana’s population, he said, and the Legislature’s override of a map he vetoed with just one Black district will force a court to ensure just and accurate redistricting.

“I’m obviously disappointed. I’m certainly not surprised,” Edwards said about the veto override.

The Republican-controlled Legislature thwarted attempts to add minority districts in new maps during a special redistricting session held in February. GOP versions of the maps for Congress, the state school board, the Louisiana Supreme Court and the state House and Senate kept the racial status quo. Edwards only vetoed the congressional map, though he said Wednesday the other maps also fell short of fair representation.

“When the population of our state is one-third African American, then simple math and simple fairness means two of those districts need to be minority districts. That’s easy to understand,” he said. “What’s not easy to understand is why the House and the Senate refused to do that multiple times.”

Gov. Edwards press conference
Gov. John Bel Edwards is flanked by Black lawmakers during a March 30, 2022, press conference following the conclusion of the Legislature’s veto override session.

This was Louisiana’s first redistricting effort that didn’t require pre-clearance from the U.S. Department of Justice since the federal Voting Rights Act was approved in 1965. Edwards said the failure to recognize an increase in the state’s Black population will likely trigger intervention of some form by the federal government .

“This demonstrates that Louisiana, even in 2022, isn’t ready to come out of some form of supervision,” the governor said.

Just before the governor’s press conference, House Speaker Clay Schexnayder, R-Gonzales, issued a statement on the Legislature’s successful veto override attempt. The speaker was author of House Bill 1, the congressional map proposal.

“For the first time in history, the Louisiana Legislature overrode a gubernatorial veto during a veto session. Today, the overwhelming will of the legislature was heard,” Schexnayder said in the statement. “House Bill 1 fulfills our constitutionally mandated duty to redistrict Congress. It also shows true legislative independence and a clear separation of power from the executive branch.”

This was the third time the Legislature has overridden a gubernatorial veto. The first occasion was in 1991 after Gov. Buddy Roemer rejected an anti-abortion law. In 1993, Gov. Edwin Edwards opposed a budget matter involving the state attorney general’s office.

 

Last updated: 3:38 pm

8 months ago

After veto override, Black Caucus, NAACP vow to fight map in court

By: - 2:33 pm

Members of the Louisiana Legislative Black Caucus and an attorney with the NAACP vowed to continue the fight on the judicial side after the Legislature voted to override the governor’s veto of a congressional map with just one majority Black district out of six.

“Here it is in 2022 and the state of Louisiana still can’t get it together,” Rep. Royce Duplessis, D-New Orleans, said. “It shouldn’t take a federal court to tell us what’s right. We know what’s right.”

NAACP Legal Defense Fund attorney Jared Evans said his organization promised at the start of the redistricting process that it would file a lawsuit if the Legislature failed to approve a map with equitable minority representation.

“We now rely on the courts to do the right thing,” Evans said.

Black Caucus chairman Rep. Vincent Pierre, D-Lafayette, issued a statement after the session adjourned.

“I am disappointed in the vote that occurred today. The African American population in this state grew by 4.4% from 2010-2020. Because of this increase, our state’s congressional maps created should include at least two majority minority districts, but unfortunately, they do not. Furthermore, these maps as drawn violate Section 2 of the voting rights act. We as a caucus are extremely frustrated, as there were multiple attempts made during our Redistricting session to pave the way for another majority minority district. The LLBC will continue to do what it has always done – fight for those who are underrepresented in the state of Louisiana.”

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Last updated: 3:38 pm

8 months ago

Louisiana Senate votes to override governor’s veto of congressional map

By: - 1:50 pm

The Louisiana Senate voted 27-11 Wednesday to override Gov. John Bel Edwards’ veto of a redistricting map that maintains a single Black-majority seat for the state in Congress out of six, following a similar outcome in the state House. The governor has said an additional Black-majority district should be added to the map.

To override a veto, 27 votes were needed in the upper chamber.

The most probable next stop for the issue is federal court. Voting rights and racial equiit groups have promised to file a lawsuit unless Louisiana added second district to represent the state’s Black resident, who comprise nearly 33% of the population.

Before the vote, Black members of the Senate made their opposition to the override clear.

Sharon Hewitt
State Sen Sharon Hewitt, R-Slidell, chairs the Senate & Governmental Affairs Committee meeting on Feb. 2, 2022. Her bill to redraw Louisiana’s congressional districts was approved Tuesday, Feb. 8, in the state Senate (Greg LaRose/Louisiana Illuminator)

Sen. Katrina Jackson, D-Monroe, said minorities have had to watch over the past year as voting rights were attacked based on problems with elections that don’t exist. She specifically mentioned the outcome of the 2020 presidential race, which Donald Trump has repeatedly claimed without proof that he lost as the result of voter fraud.

“Minorities in this state are not fairly represented in Congress,” Jackson said. “That’s the bottom line.”

“Our responsibility as elected officials will make or break what America is tomorrow for all of our children and grandchildren,” Sen. Joseph Bouie, D-New Orleans.

Sen. Sharon Hewitt, R-Slidell, led redistricting efforts in the upper chamber and sponsored an identical map that the governor also vetoed. In a speech to fellow senators, Hewitt repeated claims she made throughout the redistricting process that maintaining the status quo with minority districts is actually better for Black voters because the creation of a second district would dilute the other.

This is only the third successful veto override in Louisiana since its constitution was enacted in 1974. The last time the Legislature  circumvented the governor’s will was in 1993 when Edwin Edwards was in office.

Lawmakers adjourned in both chambers by 2 p.m., ending the session after roughly two hours.

Last updated: 2:05 pm

8 months ago

Louisiana House votes to override governor’s veto of congressional map

By: - 1:00 pm
The Louisiana House of Representatives has voted Wednesday to override Gov. John Bel Edwards’ veto of a congressional redistricting map that maintains a single Black-majority seat out of six. Needing two-thirds support or 70 votes in the Legislature’s lower chamber, the vote was 72-31 in favor of the override.

 

Critics of House Bill 1, sponsored by Speaker Clay Schexnayder, R-Gonzales, did not account for the increase in Louisiana’s Black population to 33%.

“We have done simple math ad nauseam,” Rep. Royce Duplessis, D-New Orleans, said. “One-third of six is two. This body continues to disregard simple math… We continue to disregard the fact that House Bill 1 is rife with politics.”

Last updated: 1:11 pm

8 months ago

Republican Ivey says NAACP approached him to oppose veto override

By: - 12:39 pm

Rep. Barry Ivey, a centrist Republican from Central, said he was approached by the NAACP and others opposed to the GOP-backed maps in an effort to sway his vote and sustain the veto. Ivey said he gave a lot of thought to their arguments but gave them no commitments.

Barry Ivey
Rep. Barry Ivey speaks with fellow lawmakers in the Louisiana House of Representatives. (Greg LaRose/Louisiana Illuminator)

It was Ivey who authored a redistricting proposal to add a second Black-majority district to the Louisiana Supreme Court. When Republicans stood in the way of its approval, Ivey launched into a critical speech on the House floor, calling the Legislature “the laziest group of people I’ve ever worked with.”

Ivey said he believes the validity of a congressional map will ultimately be decided in a courtroom regardless of what happens in the veto session.

8 months ago

DAY 1: Louisiana House, Senate convene veto session

By: - 12:15 pm

Both chambers of the Louisiana Legislature have convened for a special session to consider an override of Gov. John Bel Edwards’ veto of Republican-backed congressional redistricting maps.

The first order of business for the House and Senate was for each to appoint committees to let the other chamber and the governor know they are ready to commence business.

Republicans hold a majority in both chambers but only have a super-majority in the Senate. The GOP holds 68 seats in the House, where 70 votes are needed to override a veto. Three independents in the House could be key swing votes for Republicans, who want to maintain one Black-majority district for Louisiana in Congress.

Last updated: 12:23 pm

 

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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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