Civil rights

Civil rights groups set to take legal action against new Louisiana legislative maps

Civil rights groups are expected to file at least one lawsuit in federal court early next week on new political maps for the Louisiana Senate and House which are expected to come into effect for the 2023 election cycle.

Neither card increases the number of majority black seats in the Louisiana Legislature, which civil rights organizations say violates federal voting rights law.

Gov. John Bel Edwards announced late Wednesday that he would not veto the maps, setting the stage for legal challenges.

Although he did not reject them, the Democratic governor pointed out that he found both maps problematic because neither increased the number of majority black districts in the state house.

For the first time in six years in office, Edwards allowed bills to become law without proactively signing them into law. In doing so, he refrained from preventing the cards from taking effect, but also refused to endorse them.

“The Legislature should focus on the issues of the next session and not worry about what their constituencies will look like in the 2023 election,” Edwards said in a statement, explaining why he did not veto the cards.

The governor’s decision frustrated some members of the Legislative Black Caucus. The Louisiana Senate and House cards are often more personal to legislators than other cards because political lines affect them directly.

Some Black Democrats also believe the Louisiana House and Senate lines present the strongest case for overturning the cards through the court system, more so than the map of the American house that Edwards vetoed Wednesday.

“Obviously, I am deeply and profoundly disappointed,” by the governor’s decision not to veto the maps, Rep. Cedric Glover said. The black Democrat from Shreveport fought unsuccessfully to add another black-majority district to the new House plan during last month’s special session on redistricting.

The House and Senate maps maintain the same number of majority black seats put in place a decade ago: 11 of the 39 Senate seats and 29 of the 105 House members would remain majority black in the new maps – or approximately 28% of each room.

Black Democrats and civil rights groups believe the number of black-majority districts should be higher, given that black residents make up 33% of Louisiana’s population. They think the case for rejecting the Louisiana House card could be particularly strong, especially because the House’s own staff said an additional black-majority seat should have been added to the Shreveport area. over ten years ago.

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“I believe that not creating another opportunity [for a majority-Black district] in Caddo Parish is going to endanger us,” for failing to get the map approved by the U.S. Department of Justice, Louisiana House Clerk “Alfred” Butch Speer said during a March 2011 legislative hearing. of the last state redistribution cycle.

Speer, now retired, was the House point person to provide legal advice on redistricting at the time, but lawmakers did not take up his suggestion.

Instead of drawing a map of the House with 30 majority black seats, the 2011 legislature constructed a map with 29 majority black seats. The proposal also didn’t run into any problems with the US Department of Justice, as Speer had warned, but the card has also not been tested by a trial as it will be this year. .

Speer’s comments could be relevant to the upcoming legal challenge to the House card. Glover’s proposals to add an additional House seat in the 2022 legislative session mirrored those Speer suggested a decade ago.

The additional seat in Caddo Parish will likely be part of any legal challenge.