By Piper Hutchinson, LSU Manship School News Service
BATON ROUGE – Gov. John Bel Edwards on Wednesday vetoed maps that did little to change the boundaries of Louisiana’s congressional districts, citing the failure to add a second majority Black district.
“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,” Edwards said.
“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,” he added.
Louisiana has six congressional districts, but they are drawn in such a way that a Black candidate could win in only one of them.
Edwards, a Democrat, asked the Republican-led Legislature to immediately begin work on a new map that includes a second majority Black district.
The governor signed off on new maps for the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education and the Public Service Commission, saying he believes they provide fairer representation.
Despite the lack of additional majority minority districts in maps for the state House and Senate, Edwards said that he will allow the maps to become law without his approval. He said he did not want those maps to become a distraction in the regular legislative session, which starts Monday.
“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,” Edwards said.
Rep. Royce Duplessis, a New Orleans Democrat, applauded the governor’s veto.
”I commend the Governor’s decision to veto the congressional map,” Duplessis said. “It was the right thing to do. The people of Louisiana deserve fair representation.”
Republicans were not as thrilled.
Sen. Sharon Hewitt, R-Slidell and chair of the Senate committee that oversees redistricting, disagreed with the governor’s assessment.
She indicated that Republican lawmakers will see if they can muster the two-thirds votes in each chamber needed to override his veto.
“I am disappointed in the Governor’s decision to veto the congressional map & am confident that the map the legislature passed meets the requirements of the Voting Rights Act,” Hewitt tweeted. “I look forward to the debate on a veto override.”
Rep. Tanner Magee, R-Houma, the second-ranking legislator in the House, said that House leadership had not yet made a plan for addressing the veto. Magee said leadership would likely discuss the matter Thursday.