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Gov. Edwards vetoes proposed congressional redistricting map

It's back to the drawing board for state lawmakers after the governor decided to veto the redistricting map they approved.
Published: Mar. 9, 2022 at 6:51 PM CST
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BATON ROUGE, La. - Gov. John Bel Edwards announced on Wednesday, March 9, that he had vetoed the congressional redistricting map drawn by members of the Louisiana Legislature.

His office said Edwards used his veto power “because it does not add a second majority-minority district and runs afoul of federal law.”

The governor also announced he will not sign the state House and Senate district maps passed in the recent redistricting session. The move allows them to become law without his approval. He further announced he has signed into law maps that designated new districts for the Louisiana State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education and the Louisiana Public Service Commission.

Signed, sealed, delivered, that's how most state Republican lawmakers felt just days ago after finishing the re-districting session.

“Today, after careful consideration, review, discussion with legislators, and consultation with voting rights experts, I have vetoed the proposed congressional map drawn by Louisiana’s Legislature because it does not include a second majority African American district, despite Black voters making up almost a third of Louisianans per the latest U.S. Census data,” said Edwards. “This map is simply not fair to the people of Louisiana and does not meet the standards set forth in the federal Voting Rights Act. The Legislature should immediately begin the work of drawing a map that ensures Black voices can be properly heard in the voting booth. It can be done and it should be done.”

“While neither the congressional or legislative maps passed by Louisiana’s Legislature do anything to increase the number of districts where minority voters can elect candidates of their choosing, I do not believe the Legislature has the ability to draw new state House and Senate maps during this upcoming legislative session without the process halting the important work of the state of Louisiana. At a time when we face unprecedented challenges, but have unprecedented opportunities to make historic investments in our future, the Legislature should be focused on the issues in the upcoming session and not concerned about what their own districts will look like in the 2023 elections,” he explained.

“I have signed the maps for the Louisiana State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education and the Louisiana Public Service Commission because I believe those maps provide a fairer representation of Louisiana than the other maps that were passed,” he added.

Edwards sent letters to the Speaker of the House and Senate President about the two bills he will not sign from the redistricting session.

The governor stated out of the 163 total districts created by the Legislature in the various bills passed, not a single additional majority-minority seat was created, despite the fact that the percentage of the black population increased and the white population decreased.

Louisiana Progress released the following statement on the veto:

March 9, 2022—Despite the fact that the 2020 U.S. Census showed an increase in Louisiana’s Black population and a decrease in its white population, the Louisiana Legislature passed new maps during the recent redistricting special session that didn’t increase Black political representation.

This evening, Gov. Edwards provided a mixed response to that inequitable outcome by vetoing the congressional map, but allowing the state Senate and House maps to go into effect without his signature, and signing into law maps for the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) and the Public Service Commission.

“We applaud Governor Edwards’s decision to veto the congressional map, but we are deeply disappointed that he allowed the state legislative maps to go into effect,” said Peter Robins-Brown, executive director of Louisiana Progress. “The same reasons the Governor cited for vetoing the congressional plan also applied to the state legislative plans. For the sake of intellectual, legal, and moral consistency, he should have vetoed them too.”

Throughout Louisiana’s history, Black communities have been significantly underrepresented in the state’s political bodies, including in its U.S. congressional delegation and state legislature. The congressional and state legislative maps that have been in effect for the past decade are perfect examples of that underrepresentation.

According to the 2010 U.S. Census, more than 30 percent of the state’s population was Black, yet only 16.6 percent of our congressional districts are majority-minority and approximately 25 percent of the state legislative districts are majority-minority.

This year, the legislature had a chance to remedy that underrepresentation. Instead, a majority of the body opted to maintain the status quo. Their decisions violated the federal Voting Rights Act.

“The problems with the congressional and legislative maps went beyond racial inequality,” Robins-Brown added. “The new maps–and the current ones, for that matter–are also almost entirely non-competitive. They lock in ‘safe’ seats, where it will be very difficult for voters to hold incumbents or political parties accountable. That lack of competition leads to increasingly polarized, stagnant politics, which only benefits the wealthy elites who have traditionally dominated Louisiana’s political system.”

Louisiana Progress urges the legislature to do the right thing by passing a more equitable congressional map during the upcoming regular legislative session. We also hope to see the courts remedy the inequitable legislative maps by siding with plaintiffs who will file lawsuits, and then drawing new maps that increase the number of majority-minority districts and competitive districts.

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