(Updates with details from judge’s order.)
A federal judge on Thursday denied Louisiana lawmakers’ request for more time to draw up a new congressional redistricting plan. They have until Monday, June 20, to act.
It’s not clear that the Legislature will follow the court’s order to redraw congressional districts to include a second majority-Black district. If lawmakers fail to agree on a new map, the court will draw one.
Chief Judge Shelly Dick of US District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana previously ordered legislators to enact a congressional map with two majority-Black districts by June 20. Lawmakers had retained just one majority-Black seat, though roughly a third of Louisiana’s residents are Black, in the plan they crafted earlier this year for the state’s six-member US House delegation.
Dick denied a request from Louisiana’s Republican legislative leaders for an extension at least until June 30. She ordered briefs to be filed by Thursday evening with proposals “for the nature and timeline of the judicial redistricting process in the event that the Legislature is unable to enact a remedial map.”
The Louisiana Senate’s government affairs committee met Thursday to consider proposals to follow Dick’s order or to retain a map with one majority-Black district. Republican committee members argued against drawing a new map.
“I need somebody to explain to me how the current map and the map that’s been drawn and approved does not allow for representation, the right to vote, or the right to run of any minority inside those districts,” Sen. Barry Milligan (R) said during a meeting of the Senate’s governmental affairs committee.
A bill (S.B. 1) from Sen. Cleo Fields (D) to add a second majority-Black district is more compact than the redistricting plan blocked by Dick’s order, maintains communities of interest, and adds a second minority district, Jared Evans, policy counsel for the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, testified before the committee.
“Yes, race was a factor, but it was not the predominant factor,” he said.
Similar bills were scheduled to be heard Friday by a House committee.
House Speaker Clay Schexnayder (R) opened a special legislative session Wednesday with remarks calling the proceedings “premature and unnecessary.”
The map lawmakers passed, overriding a veto from Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) were “fair and constitutional,” he said. “It concerns me that we are now being asked to redo in just five days something that was passed by over two-thirds of both bodies after a very long year of work.”
Rep. Royce Duplessis (D) countered that the court issued an order, not a request, to add a second majority-Black district.
“This is not complicated. This is not hard. It might be hard for some of us. But we know what we’re here to do,” he said.
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Edwards, who’s pushed to add a second majority-Black district to Louisiana’s six-member US House delegation, called lawmakers into the special session to follow Dick’s order.
Five of Louisiana’s current congressional members are Republican, and the GOP-led Legislature may be attempting to protect incumbents regardless of the state’s demographic changes, Edwards said Wednesday on his monthly radio program.
“It appears to me that that’s exactly what the House and Senate majority are trying to do here, and I think that’s wrong,” he said. “This is about the rule of law. It’s not about incumbent protection.”
The fate of the existing map remains unclear. Arguments before the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit are scheduled July 8.
The case is Robinson et al v. Ardoin, M.D. La., No. 3:22-cv-00211
To contact the reporter on this story: Jennifer Kay in Miami at firstname.lastname@example.org