NEW ORLEANS (AP) - Louisiana's House and Senate have agreed on a plan to redraw congressional districts in the state to account for population shifts.
The plan is embodied in identical bills that have been approved by both legislative bodies. After final procedural votes Friday, the plan will go to Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards.
Edwards will then be under pressure from Black lawmakers to issue a veto because the plan does not create a second majority Black congressional district.
Republican proponents of the plan approved Friday said dividing the Black population between two congressional districts would provide very thin Black majorities in those districts and could be seen as actually diminishing Black voter strength.
Gov. John Bel Edwards on Friday released the following statement as the Louisiana Legislature adjourned its Special Redistricting Session sine die.
“As Americans, voting for the leaders who will represent us is one of our most cherished and important rights and responsibilities. As elected officials, regardless of our political party or affiliations, we all have the responsibility to ensure that the process of voting is fair for all and that the electoral maps do not result in diluting the voting strength of certain groups. As I’ve often said: the voters should be choosing their leaders; leaders should not be picking and choosing our voters.
“Throughout this Legislative Session, I have had discussions with a diverse group of legislators and leaders about different map proposals, and I will closely review the new district maps Louisiana’s Legislature has passed before making a decision on how to proceed. I remain adamant that the maps should reflect the growth of the African American population in our state over the last 10 years, allowing for minority groups to have an opportunity at electing candidates of their own choosing, and I do have concerns that several of the maps do not fulfill that moral and legal requirement.
“I thank the Legislature for the time and attention paid to these maps and for the sometimes emotional and difficult debate leading up to their passage. I pledge to the people of Louisiana to very carefully examine them in order to determine if I believe they are reasonable, fair, and in line with the Voting Rights Act.”
Louisiana House Democratic Caucus Chairman Sam Jenkins released this statement on the conclusion of the redistricting session:
“Unfortunately the legislature adjourned today without doing what we were sent here to do: pass new electoral maps that adhere to the census data, the wishes of our citizens, and the Voting Rights Act. The data and the law told us that minority representation should be increased at every level, but the majority party made no real attempt to follow the data or the law. Instead, it was left to Democrats to offer commonsense maps that follow the law by increasing minority representation while avoiding gerrymandering and maintaining communities of interest. Those maps were rejected or killed without sincere consideration, and maps were forced through that aggressively and illegally suppress the voice of minority Louisianans. This is another sad chapter in Louisiana’s long history of suppressing minority representation in government. We urge the Governor to veto the Congressional map and any other map that violates the Voting Rights Act.”
Louisiana Legislative Black Caucus is now asking the Governor to Veto HB1 & SB 5.
Their statement on the approval of the redistricting bills is below:
Section Two of the Voting Rights Act imposes an affirmative obligation on states to ensure that a racial minority of voters have an equal opportunity to participate in the political process and elect candidates of their choice. SB 5 and HB 1 do not comply with that obligation, despite the fact that those opportunities were clearly present in the multiple alternative maps offered by way of bills and amendments. Unfortunately, this Body failed to give them proper consideration. In addition to disregarding the law in this aspect, this Body has also disregarded the people we are here to represent. The public has been consistent over the last several months about the fact that they want a second majority-minority Congressional district and we have failed to give it to them. These Congressional maps do not comply with the Voting Rights Act, and they do not comply with the will of the people. Therefore, the Louisiana Legislative Black Caucus is requesting that the Governor veto SB 5 and HB 1.
ACLU of Louisiana, the ACLU National Voting Rights Project, NAACP Legal Defense Fund, and other civil and human rights organizations today submitted a letter urging Governor John Bel Edwards to veto State House and Senate district maps (HB14 and SB1). They say that the maps "do not comply with Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act because they fail to provide Black voters in Louisiana with an equal opportunity to participate in the political process and elect candidates of their choice."
See their letter below:
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