BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — With bipartisan support, a proposed Louisiana congressional map that would create a second majority-Black district sailed through the state Senate on Wednesday and will advance to the House chamber for debate.
The Senate’s approval is a win for Democrats who have long demanded a second majority-minority district, arguing that the congressional map currently in place discriminates against Black voters, who make up one-third of Louisiana’s population. A second majority-Black district could also result in another Democratic seat in Congress.
Louisiana is on the list of states still wrangling over congressional districts after the U.S. Supreme Court in June ruled that Alabama had violated the Voting Rights Act.
Officials have until Jan. 30 to pass new congressional boundaries with a second majority-minority district in Louisiana. If they do not meet the deadline, a district court will hold a trial and “decide on a plan for the 2024 elections,” according to a November court order by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth District. A judge on the district court signaled that she will create a map by herself if lawmakers don’t complete the task.
For more than a year, Republicans have resisted drawing another minority district, saying that the current map, which has white majorities in five of six congressional districts, is fair and constitutional.
But there is a reinvigorated push to pass a map with a second majority-minority district, spurred by the looming deadline; an attorney general who says all legal remedies have been exhausted; and a new conservative governor who is urging the GOP-dominated Legislature to pass congressional boundaries that satisfy the court.
Under the proposed map passed Wednesday, 54% of the voting-age population in the district currently held by Republican U.S. Rep. Garret Graves would be Black — up from the current 23%. Graves opposes the plan, saying in a statement to The Advocate that it “ignore(s) the redistricting principles of compactness and communities of interest.”
The lawmaker who filed the legislation, GOP state Rep. Glen Womack, said that when creating the map he prioritized protecting the seats of U.S. House Speaker Mike Johnson and U.S. House Majority Leader Steve Scalise, as well as that of Congresswoman Julia Letlow, who represents Womack’s region.
Louisiana currently has only one majority-Black district, the 2nd District, which encompasses most of New Orleans and stretches to Baton Rouge, and is represented by U.S. Rep. Troy Carter, the state’s sole Black and Democratic member of Congress.
On the Senate floor Wednesday, Democrats raised concerns that under the proposed map, the Black voting-age population in Carter’s district would decrease to 51%. However, Democrats still voted in favor, and the legislation passed 27-11. The votes against the bill all belonged to Republican lawmakers, who continue to insist that the existing map is constitutional.
Sara Cline, The Associated Press