Lawmakers in Louisiana have until the end of the month “to draw and pass new congressional boundaries to replace a current map that a federal judge said violates the Voting Rights Act by diluting the power of the state’s Black voters,” the Associated Press reports.
This is the most recent development from a legal standpoint in what has been a long-lasting fight over the state’s redistricting. Some believe this could have far-reaching repercussions, including being a determining factor in which party would end up in control of the U.S. House of Representatives after the 2024 election cycle.
Initially, the three-judge panel on the Louisiana 5th Circuit gave a January 15 deadline to the Louisiana legislature. But then they provided them with a two-week extension, postponing the deadline to January 30.
According to local news outlet WDSU, “[t]he appellate court panel says if the legislature isn’t ready by January, the lower courts move ahead to trial but the court has the right to give additional time.”
The goal is for Louisiana’s maps to be finalized by May in order to be utilized during the elections later this year.
Following the 5th circuit’s order, former Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards issued a statement. “As I have said all along, Louisiana can and should have a congressional map that represents our voting population, which is one-third Black.”
“This is about simple math, basic fairness, and the rule of law. With the 5th Circuit’s action today, I remain confident that we will have a fair map with two majority Black districts before the congressional elections next year,” Edwards continued.
However, the new state Governor “Jeff Landry has said he plans to call a special session once he takes office next month,” NPR reports.
Now legislators also have another January 30 deadline, on top of the congressional maps, to redraw the judicial district maps as well. Five out of seven of the Louisiana state supreme court justices signed a letter sent out to Governor-Elect Jeff Landry and lawmakers. The letter is requesting them “to redistrict the court’s election districts to create a second majority-minority district in the state.”
Of note, the letter points out that “the state supreme court has only been redistricted twice in more than 100 years.” The last time the current districts were updated occurred more than 25 years ago.
Louisiana is just one of several states in the South that are still trying to finalize congressional districts. Democrats have typically been arguing that the old maps serve to discriminate against minority voters. On the other side, the GOP has been arguing in the opposite, even going so far as to assert that Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act is unconstitutional.
Section 2 is one of the last remnants of the groundbreaking 1965 law after rulings from the Supreme Court have “weakened many of its provisions over the past decade.” In trying to eradicate Section 2, the Republican coalition has been attempting “to push federal courts to reinterpret long-standing legal protections against racial discrimination in redistricting.”