State Watch

Louisiana governor vetoes congressional maps

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) late Wednesday vetoed new congressional district maps advanced by the Republican-controlled state legislature, potentially throwing another state mapmaking process to the courts.

In a statement announcing his decision, Edwards said he thought the maps did not accurately reflect the makeup of Louisiana, a state where almost 33 percent of residents are Black.

Only one of the six districts drawn by Republican legislators would have had a Black-majority population. Edwards said he vetoed the map because it did not include a second majority Black district, after a decade in which Louisiana’s Black population grew and its white population decreased.

“This map is simply not fair to the people of Louisiana and does not meet the standards set forth in the federal Voting Rights Act,” Edwards said. “The Legislature should immediately begin the work of drawing a map that ensures Black voices can be properly heard in the voting booth. It can be done and it should be done.”

The map advanced by legislators made only minor changes to Louisiana’s six congressional districts, and barely cosmetic changes to the lone Black-majority district, a seat held by Rep. Troy Carter (D) that stretches from New Orleans to Baton Rouge. All five other districts would have been overwhelmingly Republican.

If the legislature opts to return a map to Edwards that includes two Black-majority districts, it would almost certainly mean Democrats would win another seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. Democrats have not held more than one seat in Louisiana since after the 2006 election.

Democrats and civil rights groups proposed several maps that would have created a second Black-majority district, though those proposals sputtered in the GOP-controlled legislature.

But first, the legislature has the chance to override Edwards’s veto. Republicans are just two seats shy of a veto-proof majority in the state House. There are three independent members of the state House.

“I am disappointed in the Governor’s decision to veto the congressional map & am confident that the map the legislature passed meets the requirements of the Voting Rights Act,” state Sen. Sharon Hewitt (R), who headed the Senate Redistricting Committee, wrote on Twitter on Wednesday night. “I look forward to the debate on a veto override.”

Edwards said he would not sign bills establishing new state House and state Senate districts either, because they did not increase the number of Black-majority districts. Instead, he will allow them to become law without his signature in order to speed progress on state business.

“I do not believe the Legislature has the ability to draw new state House and Senate maps during this upcoming legislative session without the process halting the important work of the state of Louisiana,” Edwards said. “At a time when we face unprecedented challenges, but have unprecedented opportunities to make historic investments in our future, the Legislature should be focused on the issues in the upcoming session and not concerned about what their own districts will look like in the 2023 election.”

Democrats anticipated a deadlock between Edwards and the Republican legislature last year, when a group run by former Attorney General Eric Holder filed suit in an attempt to send the remapping process to a court. The National Redistricting Action Fund last April filed what is known as “impasse litigation” in Louisiana, Minnesota and Pennsylvania — all states with Democratic governors and at least one Republican legislative chamber — to lay the groundwork for a court-drawn map.

Tags Eric Holder Gerrymandering Louisiana Redistricting state congressional map Veto

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