NEW ORLEANS – Louisiana's Democratic governor said Monday he will call the Republican-dominated Legislature into special session soon to draw up new congressional district boundaries, now that a federal judge has blocked use of maps that have only one majority-Black district.
Gov. John Bel Edwards announced his plan at a news conference at the Capitol in Baton Rouge. He spoke to reporters minutes after the 2022 regular legislative session ended, and a few hours after U.S. District Judge Shelly Dick, also in Baton Rouge, blocked the use of the new maps. Her ruling included an order that the Legislature draw up with a remedial plan by June 20.
Edwards, whose veto of the maps was overridden by lawmakers earlier this year, said there should have been a second majority-Black district among the six districts that were approved, noting that the state’s population is almost one-third Black.
Edwards said redrawing the district lines is required by the court order, the Voting Rights Act and by “basic fairness and basic math.”
But, lawyers for Republican Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin, the state's top elected official, swiftly filed a notice of appeal of Dick's order.
Dick's June 20 deadline for drawing new district lines is one month before the signup period for the Nov. 8 congressional election.
“If the Legislature is unable to pass a remedial plan by that date, the Court will issue additional orders to enact a remedial plan compliant with the laws and Constitution of the United States,” the judge wrote.
The district map was drawn up in a special session earlier this year during a legislative special session called to redraw government district lines to account for population shifts show in the 2020 census. Edwards vetoed the maps but his veto was overridden. That led to a lawsuit by voting rights advocates.
Ardoin filed a notice of appeal with the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans. Ultimately, the case could wind up before the Supreme Court, which earlier this year put on hold a lower court ruling that Alabama must draw new congressional districts before the 2022 elections to increase Black voting power.
Ardoin's office declined comment on the litigation.
In blocking the use of the map pending further elections, Dick said those filing the lawsuit were likely to prevail with their argument that the new districts violate the federal Voting Rights Act. She blocked Ardoin from conducting any elections using the new map.