Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards speaks about the investigation into the death of Ronald Greene in Baton Rouge, La., Tuesday, Feb. 1, 2022. (AP Photo/Matthew Hinton) Matthew Hinton/AP
Democrats poised to pick up House seat with Louisiana redistricting now in court
Ryan KingJune 20, 01:38 PM June 20, 01:44 PMVideo Embed
Recent developments in Louisiana are poised to give Democrats a possible congressional seat pickup amid a string of redistricting misfortunes for the party.
Over the weekend, the Republican-led state legislature effectively ceded its congressional line drawing powers after ending a special session without passing a new map in compliance with court orders, all but guaranteeing the courts will seize the reins.
“It is disappointing that after every opportunity to do the right thing and create a second majority African-American Congressional district as ordered by the U.S. Court for the Middle District, the Legislature has once again failed to do so,” John Bel Edwards (D-LA) responded in a statement.
A judge had ordered Louisiana to craft a new map by June 20 that added a second black-majority district. At the behest of Edwards, lawmakers commenced a six-day special session, but just four days in, negotiations screeched to a halt, and lawmakers opted to pull the plug on the special session.
U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana Judge Shelly Dick threatened that the court would craft a new map if state lawmakers failed to produce one.
The state’s sole black-majority district, the 2nd Congressional District, has long been a Democratic stronghold and is held by Rep. Troy Carter. Democrats are hoping a second black-majority district would give them another seat in the state. Republicans maintain control of 83% of the state’s congressional seats — five of the state’s six seats.
Democrats have faced a slew of apportionment losses across the country in Florida, New York, and elsewhere, but now, in the waning days of redistricting battles, the party has managed to find solace in a few last-minute victories. For example, late last month, New Hampshire’s Supreme Court enacted a map that largely preserved the status quo, quashing Republican efforts to procure a pickup in the Granite State.
Still, even if Democrats ultimately win a seat in Louisiana, Republicans are poised to net two to three district advantages across the country, furthering their prospects in an expected red wave year heading into the midterm elections.
Desperate to stave off a Democratic court victory, Republicans in Louisiana are now clamoring for an emergency Supreme Court intervention in the case, asking the high court to reinstate their preferred map. Additionally, a hearing on a Republican-backed appeal of the court ruling ordering a new map is slated for July 8 at the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Dick had ruled that the state’s map likely defied the Voting Rights Act and that plaintiffs in the case were likely to prevail. She issued injunctive relief requiring the state to craft a new map — a move that was immediately met with an appeal from Republicans.
In her ruling, she cited precedents established in Thornburg v. Gingles to argue the map diluted minority voting power in the state. About one-third of the Bayou State is black, but the 2nd Congressional District is the only black-majority district, with a 62% black population.
Edwards had vetoed the current map earlier this year, but the Republican-led state legislature overrode that veto in March. The map matched the prior arrangement closely, but Democrats had long argued the map did not grant minorities adequate representation in the state. Louisiana’s congressional seat count was unchanged by the census.
Under Louisiana’s election system, candidates run for office on the same ballot. If no contender wins a majority outright, then the race heads to a runoff. In other words, the de facto “primary elections” take place in November. This gives the state some breathing room to sort out its redistricting situation. The Bayou State has a June 22 deadline for congressional candidates to file.
Louisiana is the only state without a legally binding congressional map in place. About a dozen states are currently engaged in litigation over their maps.
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