African American Voting Rights Given Priority as Louisiana Governor Calls Redistricting Special Session

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Louisiana Governor Jeff Landry wasted no time in taking action upon assuming office. On Monday, just hours into his tenure, Landry called for a redistricting special session. This move allows state lawmakers the opportunity to redraw and replace the existing congressional map, which a federal judge deemed to be in violation of the Voting Rights Act by diluting the power of Black voters.

In addition to addressing the state’s congressional map, the special session aims to tackle other critical issues. Governor Landry issued a list of items to be discussed, including the redrawing of state Supreme Court districts and a potential transition from Louisiana’s current open primary election system to a closed one.

Landry emphasized the need to adhere to court orders, stating, “The courts have mandated that the state of Louisiana redraw our congressional districts… Redistricting is a state legislative function. That is why today, I followed the court order and made the call to convene the legislature of Louisiana into a special session on redistricting.”

The current congressional map, which was utilized in the November election, has resulted in five out of six districts having white majorities, despite Black individuals comprising one-third of the state’s population. Democrats argue that the map disadvantages Black voters and demand the inclusion of two majority-minority districts. Republicans, on the other hand, maintain that the current map is fair, contending that Black populations in the state are too dispersed for a second majority-Black district to be practical.

Officials must pass new congressional boundaries by January 30th to comply with a district court’s order. Failure to meet this deadline will result in a trial and a court-determined plan for the 2024 elections. Nonetheless, any newly established political boundaries may still face legal challenges.

Louisiana is among several states grappling with redrawing congressional districts following the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in June, which found that Alabama had violated the Voting Rights Act. The battle over Louisiana’s congressional boundaries has continued for over a year and a half, with civil rights groups successfully arguing before U.S. District Judge Shelly Dick that the current map violates the Voting Rights Act.

Judge Dick’s ruling highlighted Louisiana’s long history of voting-related discrimination. As a result, she ordered the map to be redrawn to include a second majority-Black district before being sent to a federal appeals court in New Orleans.

Beyond congressional boundaries, the special session will also address the potential redrawing of the Louisiana Supreme Court’s districts. Landry supports the creation of a second majority-Black district among the court’s seven seats.

Furthermore, election procedures, such as Louisiana’s open primary system, will be part of the discussion. Under the current “jungle primary,” all candidates, irrespective of party affiliation, appear on the same ballot. The proposed closed primary system would separate the primaries by party, with the winning Democrat and Republican advancing to the final election.

Lawmakers face the challenge of reaching agreement and advancing a new map during the special session. However, regardless of their decision, potential legal challenges loom on the horizon.

In conclusion, Louisiana Governor Jeff Landry has called for a redistricting special session to address the state’s congressional map, which was deemed to violate the Voting Rights Act. Alongside congressional boundaries, the session will also consider redrawing the state Supreme Court’s districts and changing the primary election system. This move comes following the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling against Alabama for similar violations. Democrats advocate for two majority-minority districts, while Republicans argue that the current map is fair. A federal district court has set a deadline of January 30th for the passage of new congressional boundaries. Failure to meet this deadline will result in the court deciding on a plan for the 2024 elections. The special session presents an opportunity to rectify long-standing voting-related disparities and provide equitable representation for Louisiana’s diverse population.