Louisiana Sen. Mike Fesi, R-Houma, speaks to a fellow lawmaker as the Senate takes a recess amid floor debate on a redistricting map (pictured in background) on Feb. 18, 2022. (Wes Muller/Louisiana Illuminator)
A federal appeals court panel in New Orleans lifted its stay Sunday of a lower court’s ruling that found Louisiana’s congressional map was racially gerrymandered. It means a revised version of the U.S. districts is due to the federal court in one week while appellate judges decide the merits of the case.
The U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals had issued the temporary stay Thursday, giving Republicans in the Louisiana Legislature hope that they might not have to convene for a second special redistricting session this week. But when the 5th Circuit lifted its stay, it effectively reinstated the lower court’s order that lawmakers must redraw their maps with a second majority-Black congressional district no later than June 20.
“This is a big step in the right direction for the people of Louisiana, and I’m thankful to the U.S 5th Circuit for lifting the stay,” Gov. John Bel Edwards said in a press release. “This has always been a straightforward case of simple math, simple fairness and the rule of law. According to the U.S. Census, African Americans make up nearly one-third of the voting population in Louisiana, and therefore, we should have a second majority minority congressional district.”
On June 6, federal district court Judge Shelly Dick, in the case of Robinson v. Ardoin, ordered lawmakers to redraw Louisiana’s congressional districts after she determined the Republican-dominated Legislature unlawfully gerrymandered the map to tilt elections to favor white conservative candidates — a violation of the federal Voting Rights Act.
The 2020 Census indicated Louisiana’s population is nearly one-third Black, yet lawmakers adopted a map earlier this year in which five of the state’s six congressional districts are majority-white conservative strongholds.
After Dick, an appointee of President Barack Obama, struck down the map, the governor called the Legislature into a five-day special session beginning June 15 to redraw the districts. State lawmakers and Louisiana Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin, who are defendants in the case, immediately appealed the decision and asked the 5th Circuit to temporarily stay Dick’s ruling, which it did until reversing the stay on Sunday.
“We have received the decision by a three judge panel of the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals lifting the stay of Judge Shelly Dick’s preliminary injunction and we are determining our next course of action,” Ardoin said. “While I strongly disagree with the ruling of the panel, as Secretary of State I am obligated to comply with federal and state law, including Judge Dick’s injunction as long as it remains in effect. I also remain committed that my office will do everything in our power to administer fair and equitable elections for all Louisiana voters in 2022.”
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