Governor Vetoes Congressional Redistricting Proposals
Louisiana lawmakers will have to return to the drawing board to create a new Congressional district map for the state.
Governor John Bel Edwards vetoed the two plans approved by state lawmakers during February's special redistricting session. Those proposals, House Speaker Clay Schexnayder's House Bill 1 and Senator Sharon Hewitt's Senate Bill 5 maintained the status quo of one minority-majority district. Their proposals made only minor changes to the current congressional district map.
Governor Edwards had threatened to veto any redistricting proposal that he deemed would not be fair. Edwards and others had called on lawmakers to include a second minority-majority district in the new congressional maps because Louisiana's population is one-third Black. Edwards says that statistic weighed heavily in his decision.
“Today, after careful consideration, review, discussion with legislators, and consultation with voting rights experts, I have vetoed the proposed congressional map drawn by Louisiana’s Legislature because it does not include a second majority African American district, despite Black voters making up almost a third of Louisianans per the latest U.S. Census data," Edwards said in a press release. "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. 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."
Already, three legislators have filed reapportionment bills for the upcoming regular legislative session.
Rep. John Stefanski (R-Crowley) has introduced a map that maintains the status quo of one minority-majority district. Like Schexnayder's and Hewitt's proposals, Stefanski makes minor changes to the current legislative map while keeping the Baton Rouge/New Orleans Black-majority district intact.
Meanwhile, Rep. Royce Duplessis (D-New Orleans) and Sen. Cleo Fields (D-Baton Rouge) have both reintroduced their reapportionment proposals. Both maps include a second minority-majority district. Both maps split Lafayette and St. Martin Parishes into two districts, LA-3 and LA-5.
Governor Edwards will hold some sway during this latest redistricting saga. Edwards could use the threat of budget line item vetoes to convince lawmakers to vote his way. With an election year for lawmakers fast approaching, some will want to stay in the governor's good graces to bring home state funding for projects in their districts, causing them to vote in line with Edwards's wishes.
Meanwhile, Governor Edwards allowed the state house and state senate maps approved by lawmakers become law without a signature. He said a veto of those bills would have created problems for the state during the upcoming regular session.
"While neither the congressional or legislative maps passed by Louisiana’s Legislature do anything to increase the number of districts where minority voters can elect candidates of their choosing, 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 elections."
Voting rights advocates, including the NAACP and the ACLU, said during the special session that they would file lawsuits to challenge any redistricting maps that did not reflect the state's one-third minority population. Both organizations were quiet on social media Wednesday night about any possible lawsuits.
Edwards signed into law the new maps for the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education and the Public Service Commission.
" . . . I believe those maps provide a fairer representation of Louisiana than the other maps that were passed," Edwards said.