Baton Rouge ( Associated Press) — Louisiana lawmakers returned to the Capitol on Wednesday to redesign Congress’s map, which a federal judge threw out for violating the Voting Rights Act, looming under an impending court deadline. In the midst of despair, he resumed his work.
The Republican-dominated legislature and Governor John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, have been fighting over borders since February, when lawmakers approved a map of Congress with white majority in five of the six districts. Democrats and the Louisiana Legislative Black Caucus argue that the current map underestimates the political clout of African American voters and that at least two of the six districts should have a Black majority.
Last week, US District Judge Shelley Dick nullified the adopted map and ordered the state to come up with a second majority black district by June 20. About a third of Louisiana is black.
“Member we didn’t get it right last season and we didn’t get it right in February, because if we did, we wouldn’t be back here,” said Rep. Jason Hughes, a Democrat and member of the Black Caucus. House floor Wednesday afternoon.
State lawmakers every 10 years – armed with new US Census Bureau information – Redraw political boundaries for seats in the US House, State Senate, State House, Board of Elementary and Secondary Education and Public Service Commission. The process ultimately affects which political parties, viewpoints, and people control the government bodies that write laws, set utility rates, and create public school policies.
While lawmakers passed Congress’ new maps in February, Edwards vetoed the maps. However, the legislature overrode the veto – marking the first time in nearly three decades that lawmakers refused to ratify a bill passed by the governor.
However, Dick’s decision was supported by a second majority Black District and lawmakers were forced to go back to the drawing board.
“The evidence for Louisiana’s long and ongoing history of voting-related discrimination is overwhelmingly in the plaintiff’s favor,” Dick wrote in the ruling.
The 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals briefly stayed Dick’s deadline, but lifted that stay on Sunday. The Court of Appeals ruled on Dick’s decision on July 8, arguing that the current map violates the Voting Rights Act.
“Some of our leaders in the legislature have said throughout this process, ‘We’ll let the courts make it work,'” said Rep. Candace Newell, a Democrat and vice president of the Black Caucus. “Well, it’s worked out by the courts and the courts have ruled that the legislature has to pass a map that has two minority-majority congressional districts.”
As the special session began, GOP lawmakers continued to show support for the limits passed in February.
House Speaker Clay Schexneider called the session “premature and unnecessary until the legal process is over”. He defended the Congressional map as “fair and constitutional”.
“It worries me that we are now being asked to do something in just five days that we have passed by more than two-thirds of both bodies after a very long year of work,” Schachneider told the House.
Sharon Hewitt, a Slidell Republican and a leader in the remapping effort, has insisted that attempting to include the state’s widely dispersed black population in two separate congressional districts would result in the two districts being very narrowly black. There would be a majority that could actually reduce black voter power. ,
“We did the right thing,” Hewitt told the Senate on Wednesday. “We as a legislative body deliberated and passed a map. We did what we always do.”
Strongly disagree in the corridor of the MLA.
“Members that we’re seeing at the moment are, unfortunately, the effects of slavery and Jim Crow,” Hughes said, “but today, at this point, we have an opportunity.” You just have a mandate to do the right thing.”
According to the latest census data, the population of Louisiana is approximately 56% white, over 31% black and approximately 7% identified as Hispanic or Latino. But some Democrats say lawmakers’ votes are based not on such figures but on party and racial lines.
“We get up here every day… and we start with a prayer. And we talk about loving everyone. But when it comes time to vote, we don’t vote that way. We don’t vote in this state.” I love blacks like we don’t vote,” said Rep. Dennis Marcel, a Democrat and member of the Black Caucus.
Despite the deadline for completing the maps, the session began slowly and committees scheduled Thursday and Friday to begin hearings on the map proposals.
Schexnayder and Senate President Page Cortez have requested an extension. To complete the work at least by 30th June. He said in a motion that the constitution and legislative rules of the state make it impossible for a redistribution bill made in one house before the seventh day of a session to be processed in another unless the rules are suspended.
He is to appear before Judge Dick during the hearing on Thursday.