BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Louisiana Republicans hope they ended the upheaval surrounding elections for their governing body, by having lawmakers rewrite the rules determining the makeup of the GOP’s central committee districts.
Bills passed by near-unanimous House and Senate votes in the regular legislative session would keep the Republican Party from having to follow a 1980s-era law that would have it dramatically rework its State Central Committee districts and force some current members to run against one another.
The measures sponsored by Rep. Beryl Amedee and Sen. Stewart Cathey, both Republicans, await a decision by Gov. John Bel Edwards. The Democratic governor hasn’t said whether he’ll sign the changes.
Republicans, including Amedee, filed a lawsuit in November seeking to preserve their existing district plan. Elections for the GOP governing board have been on hold while the litigation is pending. The bills would appear to end the need for the lawsuit, if signed.
The Republican and Democratic central committees manage party activities, select state party leadership and determine delegates to the national party conventions, among other things. Members are elected to four-year terms on the same ballot as the state’s presidential primary.
The bills by Amedee and Cathey would allow the rescheduling of this year’s GOP central committee elections, in addition to giving the central committees more flexibility in drawing up their districts.
The change means the state Republican Party could keep its current plan and wouldn’t have to comply with the existing law passed in 1987.
That 33-year-old law requires any party with more than 30% of Louisiana’s registered voters to have a 210-member central committee with two members from each state House district, one male and one female.
The law had applied only to the Democrats’ central committee since it was written, as Democrats were the dominant party in the state for decades. But in 2019, Louisiana’s GOP topped the 30% voter registration benchmark, triggering the law to apply to Republicans’ governing body as well.
Republicans want to use a 230-member plan that the party drew up in 2019 based on state Senate districts and without designated seats for male and female members. They say the 1987 law was written by Democrats to follow national Democratic policy.
After the lawsuit was filed, Democrats accused the GOP of objecting to the law because they didn’t want to give women an equal voice on the state central committee. But there was little Democratic opposition to the bills as they easily cleared the House and Senate during the regular session that ended June 1.