Gov. John Bel Edwards (Wes Muller/Louisiana Illuminator)
Gov. John Bel Edwards said he would support the creation of a third majority-minority district on Louisiana’s Board of Elementary and Secondary Education as long as the political boundaries for the school board seats were “reasonable” when they arrived on his desk.
“If it can be done and the map can be drawn in a way that is reasonable and so forth, then I certainly would be interested in doing that,” Edwards said in response to a question at a new conference Thursday.
Louisiana lawmakers are expected to redraw several political districts, including those for BESE, during a special session scheduled for Feb. 1-20. Edwards has some influence over the process because he can veto new political maps lawmakers draw up.
The state school board is currently made up of 11 members, eight elected and three appointed by the governor. Two of the eight elected members come from districts where Black residents are in the majority. Civil Rights groups have requested state lawmakers redraw BESE’s political boundaries to create a third district where the majority of residents are not white.
With two of the eight elected BESE seats, majority-minority districts make up only 25% of the elected state school board, though minority residents account for more than 40% of Louisiana’s population.
Recent census figures show that Louisiana’s population is 57% white, 33% Black, 7% Hispanic and 2% Asian. About 5.5% of the state’s population also identifies as “other” – not white, Black, Asian or American Indian – when it comes to race. People who are Hispanic identify as multiple races.
The percentage of Louisiana’s population that identifies as white has dropped since 2010 by more than 6%, while the population identifying as Black increased in excess of 3%. The state’s Hispanic population also increased 67% in that time frame, according to recent census data.
In addition to the BESE request, there has been a push to create another majority-Black U.S. House seat in Louisiana. Only one of Louisiana’s six U.S. House districts has a majority-Black population.
The Louisiana Legislature is dominated by Republicans. State lawmakers are in charge of drawing the new political lines, and are unlikely to want to increase Democrats’ chances of getting elected, which more majority-minority seats would make likely.
Edwards, a Democrat, hasn’t said he will veto Congressional or BESE maps that don’t add majority-minority districts. If he does so, it could make Louisiana’s redistricting process more complicated. There aren’t enough votes in the Louisiana House to override his veto unless Democrats or independents join Republicans to overturn him.
If the Legislature and governor end up in a deadlock, courts could end up deciding the new political districts.
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