Special redistricting session to redraw maps scheduled to begin this week

Louisiana legislators are due to convene a special session this week to redraw the state’s congressional district map after an appeals court denied a motion for permanent stay in the case.

A federal appeals court panel in New Orleans lifted its stay Sunday, June 12, of a lower court’s ruling that found Louisiana’s congressional map was racially gerrymandered. It means a revised version of the U.S. districts is due to the federal court in less than one week.

The U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals had issued the temporary stay last week, giving lawmakers the chance they might not need to convene for a second special redistricting session. But the latest decision essentially reinstated the lower court’s order that lawmakers must redraw their maps by June 20.  

“This is a big step in the right direction for the people of Louisiana, and I’m thankful to the U.S. Fifth Circuit for lifting the stay,” Gov. John Bel Edwards wrote in a statement on Sunday. “This has always been a straightforward case of simple math, simple fairness and the rule of law. According to the U.S. Census, African Americans make up nearly one-third of the voting population in Louisiana, and therefore, we should have a second majority minority congressional district.”

The 2020 Census indicated Louisiana’s population is nearly one-third Black, which led to many taking issue with maps drafted earlier this year where five of the state’s six congressional districts are majority-white conservative strongholds. 

Edwards vetoed the congressional map approved by lawmakers in February, and the Legislature voted 72-31 in the House and 27-11 in the Senate to override the veto.

On June 6, U.S. Middle District Court Judge Shelly Dick ordered lawmakers to redraw Louisiana’s congressional districts after she determined the Republican-dominated Legislature unlawfully gerrymandered the map to tilt elections to favor white conservative candidates — a violation of the federal Voting Rights Act.

The governor called the Legislature into a five-day special session to begin June 15 to redraw the districts. State lawmakers and Louisiana Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin immediately appealed the decision and asked the 5th Circuit to temporarily stay Judge Dick’s ruiling, which it did until reversing the stay June 12.

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