BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) — The Louisiana Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has ordered the legislature to try again to pass a congressional map with two majority-minority districts.
The map passed in early 2022 only has one majority-minority district that encompasses both New Orleans and Baton Rouge. The last census showed the state’s Black population is up to 33%, which advocates for the second district have called “basic math” to equal two majority-minority districts.
“If the Supreme Court had not ruled in favor of Black voters in Alabama, we certainly would have seen the Fifth Circuit ruling on our side,” said Jared Evans, Policy Counsel for NAACP Legal Defense Fund. “I don’t think you would see some of the other elected officials in Louisiana now speaking as if they’re going to pass a map that we’ve been asking for for three years now.”
After halting a Middle District Court injunction last year, the U.S. Supreme Court lifted the stop on the case after Alabama’s map was found to be unconstitutional. The Middle District Court suggested Louisiana’s map likely violated the Voting Rights Act and began the process to draw a remedial map.
The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals stepped in to have a hearing on the case. They decided it was the legislature’s right to draw the map and gave them the deadline of January 15, 2024, to make a new one. Current Gov. John Bel Edwards does have the ability to call in the outgoing legislature, which passed the original map, to try again.
Gov.-elect Jeff Landry already stated he is willing to hold the special session.
“Redistricting is a state legislative function,” said Landry in a statement Friday. “Based on today’s ruling, I will call for a special session so our Legislature may resolve this issue.”
Landry does face an impossible timeline. He cannot call a special session until he is inaugurated on Jan. 8. By law, there must be seven days notice given for a special session, which would put him at the Jan. 15 deadline. The court did state a limited extension could be granted.
“If the majority in the legislature and the new governor want to make a good faith attempt at passing a fair map that has two majority Black districts and they’re not able to comply with that January 15th deadline and they ask for additional time, we would certainly not object to that,” Evans said.
The court also said a new map must be completed by May 2024 to be used for the congressional election that fall. If a map is not passed or is found to violate the Voting Rights Act, the lower court will be able to move forward with creating a remedial map.
“At every step of the redistricting process, Black Louisianans have fought hard for our communities’ right to be fully represented,” said Ashley Shelton, president and CEO of the Power Coalition for Equity and Justice. “The people of Louisiana deserve to be a part of a fair political process that works for all, not just some. We look forward to continuing to advocate for voters as they push for a fair map.”
The state’s House and Senate maps are also still working their way through the court system and a hearing on those will be later this month.