NEW ORLEANS, La. (BRPROUD) – Louisiana’s contested congressional map case was heard before the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals Friday.
Those suing the state are asking for a map with two majority-minority districts to be put in place while the state argues for a full trial on the original map to happen first.
One option for the case is to keep the Middle District Court injunction that said the map with just one majority-minority district likely violated the Voting Rights Act. The map passed by the Republican supermajority legislature in 2022 was vetoed by Governor John Bel Edwards, the veto was later overturned by lawmakers.
U.S. District Judge Shelly Dick ordered the legislature to pass a new map with two Black-majority districts, given the state’s population being 33% Black and there being six congressional districts, and they did not do so in the five-day special session.
Another option would be to throw out the injunction. Judges proposed the idea of an expedited trial on the original map. The state argued they did not have enough time to prepare for the original injunction – giving reason it should be thrown out. The judges questioned them at length about how a new hearing could actually benefit them.
The plaintiffs want to have a remedial map put in place during a potential trial so should time run out again, a map with two majority-minority districts would be used in the 2024 election.
“Keeping a preliminary injunction in place, affirming what Judge Dick said will allow plaintiffs’ rights to be preserved so that they won’t be injured any further. And it will also allow the state the opportunity to draw a map that would be constitutional and in line with the Voting Rights Act,” said Alanah Odoms, Executive Director of the ACLU of Louisiana.
In 2022, the case was halted because it was too close to the congressional election and the U.S. Supreme Court wanted to make a decision on the Alabama redistricting case.
In the hearing, the Secretary of State’s office said a new map would have to be in place by the end of May in order for it to be used in the election. Qualifying for congressional races will take place in July of 2024.
“It appears, though, this is nothing more than a delay tactic to deny the proper representation of one-third of our citizens,” State rep. Kyle Green, D-Marrero, said.
The state also argued against the proposed remedial map that loops parts of northern East Baton Rouge Parish into the Delta parishes, claiming they don’t have a community of interest.
Plaintiffs strongly pushed back against that idea. They suggested the drawing of the map was just to stitch together Black communities solely based on their skin color. Those suing the state pushed back against that idea.
“Folks wanted to talk about Baton Rouge as a whole, but we’re talking specifically about this district, north Baton Rouge, which shares the exact very similar socioeconomic factors,” said Ashley Shelton, Executive Director of the Power Coalition for Equity and Justice.
The plaintiffs also argue their map is more compact than the original map passed by the legislature.
The judges now will decide if they will keep the preliminary injunction in place or order a new trial. A decision is expected in the coming weeks.
This case, like the Alabama maps, will have national implications if a second majority-minority district is ultimately created. Republicans have a thin majority in the U.S. House of Representatives and losing red seats could cost them that majority.