Commentary

Louisiana’s second redistricting session reveals the emperor has no clothes

June 20, 2022 5:01 pm
Representative Edmond Jordan addresses members of the Louisiana House of Representatives

Rep. Edmond Jordan, D-Baton Rouge, surrounded by House members of the Legislative Black Caucus and most House Democrats, addresses colleagues before the end of the special redistricting session June 18, 2022. (Greg LaRose/Louisiana Illuminator)

Desks on the floor of the Louisiana House were mostly empty when Rep. Edmond Jordan, D-Baton Rouge, took the lectern Saturday. It was just before members adjourned the second redistricting session of the year and minutes after the state Senate gaveled out sine die.  

Members of the Black Caucus and most Democrats were at Jordan’s side to show their support, leaving just a few scattered representatives in their seats after more than two dozen other lawmakers had already made their exit.

Jordan proceeded to share an eloquent version of “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” the 185-year-old Hans Christian Andersen tale about swindlers who pose as weavers to hoodwink a vain but oblivious leader. His subjects go along with the ruse to avoid any upset, but a child can’t help blurt out when he sees the emperor is completely naked. The splendid garb turned out to be a product of his refusal to believe that what he wore was anything less than perfect.   

Representative Edmond Jordan
Rep. Edmond Jordan, D-Baton Rouge. (Greg LaRose/Louisiana Illuminator)

Jordan’s point was obvious. Just as that kid knew a butt-naked emperor when he saw one, the forces in favor of adding another Black-majority congressional district in Louisiana recognized the fruitless session for what it was. It was an opportunity for the Legislature’s Republican leadership to say “we tried” while a federal lawsuit to block a single Black-majority district the Legislature approved earlier this year from taking effect winds its way to the Supreme Court. 

U.S. District Judge Shelly Dick rejected that map June 6, leading to last week’s special session. Without a new map, she has said the court will draw its own. That version will create two Black-majority districts, and it’s certain to be appealed. Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin, the lead defendant in the lawsuit, asked Friday for the Supreme Court to block Dick’s ruling, saying it throws the upcoming fall elections “into chaos,” according to the Associated Press. 

Justices earlier this year ruled against plaintiffs in Alabama who sued to force their legislature to redraw congressional districts to add another minority seat. 

A frequently made point from Black voters and lawmakers during Louisiana’s redistricting process was to question whether their voices would be heard and reflected in the maps being drawn. In more ways than one, they got their answer this past weekend.     

No one but the people still in the chamber Saturday afternoon saw and heard Jordan’s speech. For some unknown reason, the Legislature’s streaming online feed from the House ended. It resumed just before the House adjourned.

Now we wait to see whether the nation’s highest court will hear or silence these voices. 

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Greg LaRose
Greg LaRose

Greg LaRose has covered news for more than 30 years in Louisiana. Before coming to the Louisiana Illuminator, he was the chief investigative reporter for WDSU-TV in New Orleans. He previously led the government and politics team for The Times-Picayune | NOLA.com, and was editor in chief at New Orleans CityBusiness. Greg's other career stops include Tiger Rag, South Baton Rouge Journal, the Covington News Banner, Louisiana Radio Network and multiple radio stations.

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