(Updates with comments from governor and House speaker.)
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Louisiana lawmakers narrowly voted Wednesday to override Gov. John Bel Edwards’ veto and keep a congressional redistricting plan with a single majority-Black seat in a state where roughly a third of the residents are Black.
“It speaks so poorly of us, collectively,” Edwards told reporters in Baton Rouge, La.
The vote demonstrates why the preclearance requirement of the Voting Rights Act, struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2013, was still needed, he said.
“I cannot imagine there is a more compelling case for the courts to take a look at and to overturn than the congressional map here in Louisiana,” he said.
Edwards (D) said he vetoed the map because he didn’t believe it met the standards established in the federal Voting Rights Act. Louisiana Democrats had pushed to create a second majority-Black district in the state’s six-seat delegation to reflect a growing Black population.
The 2020 Census counted 4.6 million people in Louisiana, of whom 1.5 million, or 32.8%, were Black. The state currently is represented in Congress by one Black Democrat and five white Republicans.
“This body continues to disregard simple math. This body continues to disregard the shifting demographics of this state,” Rep. Royce Duplessis (D) said on the House floor.
The law (H.B. 1) maintains one majority-Black district stretching from the New Orleans area to the Baton Rouge area.
If Louisiana’s Black population was spread evenly throughout the state, it wouldn’t have any minority districts, Sen. Sharon Hewitt (R) said Wednesday on the Senate floor.
“It matters where people live,” she said.
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The Senate voted 27 to 11 to override Edwards’ veto, following a House vote of 72 to 31. Twenty-six votes had been needed in the Senate, and the House needed 70.
The override “shows true legislative independence and a clear separation of power from the executive branch,” House Speaker Clay Schexnayder (R) said in an emailed statement.
Attorneys with the Elias Law Group LLP have asked a Louisiana court to step in and draw a new map.
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