Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards calls Special Session to redraw congressional map

Greg Hilburn
Lafayette Daily Advertiser

Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards is sending Louisiana lawmakers back to the drawing board in a Legislative Special Session to add a second majority Black district to the state's congressional map.

Edwards' call comes a day after the state's new congressional map was thrown out by a federal judge because the Legislature didn't draw a second majority Black district despite the Black population's growth to about one-third during the past decade.

U.S. Middle District Judge Shelly Dick on Monday ordered the Legislature to redraw the six-district map by June 20 or the court will draw its own boundaries "compliant with the laws and Constitution of the United States."

“The Middle District’s ruling yesterday that the congressional maps drawn by Louisiana’s Legislature earlier this year violate Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act is correct and completely unsurprising, which is why I vetoed these maps originally," Edwards said in a statement. "It is imperative that the Louisiana Legislature come to Baton Rouge to redraw these maps quickly and fairly, in compliance with the judge’s order and before the fall elections.

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards addresses his Task Force on Statewide Litter Abatement and Beautification on Tuesday, Feb. 15, 2022 at the Water Campus in Baton.

“Louisiana’s congressional map of six districts needs to contain at least two majority African-American districts in order to be fair to Louisiana’s voting population, which is one-third Black voters, per the latest U.S. Census data. This is required by simple math, basic fairness and the rule of law.”

The six-day Special Session is set to begin at noon June 15 and must end by 6 p.m. June 20.

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Louisiana Republican Attorney General Jeff Landry said he will immediately appeal Dick's decision to the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals and ask for an expedited ruling.

The appeals court could overrule Dick or issue a stay on her order, which would negate the need for a Special Session until the case got a full hearing in court.

"We believe (Dick) erred in her decision and have filed a notice of appeal," Landry quickly tweeted after Monday's ruling. "We look forward to the Fifth Court halting the ruling!"

Louisiana's Legislature passed the new map during a Special Session in February.

Edwards vetoed the map, saying it was unfair and unconstitutional because lawmakers kept one majority-Black seat even as the Black population grew to about 33%.

But Republicans secured the two-thirds votes needed in both the House (72-31) and Senate (27-11) to override Edwards' veto on March 30, triggering lawsuits from civil rights groups challenging the map.

Louisiana's new six-district Congressional map kept a similar configuration to the previous one with a single majority-Black district based in New Orleans and part of Baton Rouge represented by Democratic Congressman Troy Carter of New Orleans.

Republican leaders told USA Today Network they believe the new map drawn in February will eventually be approved. "This will be worked out in the courts," Republican Senate President Page Cortez of Lafayette said previously.

Qualifying for Louisiana's Nov. 8 congressional election is set for July 20-22 for now.

Greg Hilburn covers state politics for the USA TODAY Network of Louisiana. Follow him on Twitter @GregHilburn1.