Lawsuits Challenge Louisiana’s Congressional Redistricting Map

BATON ROUGE (The Center Square) – Civil rights groups and voting activists filed lawsuits challenging Louisiana’s new congressional redistricting map hours after lawmakers voted to override Gov. John Bel Edwards’ veto of the maps.

The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, American Civil Liberties Union, ACLU of Louisiana and the law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP filed a lawsuit Wednesday in U.S. District Court on behalf of the Louisiana NAACP, Power Coalition for Equity and Justice and individual voters, claiming the map violates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

“The Congressional map passed by the Louisiana legislature in February rejected basic principles of fairness and equity,” NAACP Louisiana State Conference President Michael McClanahan said. “The legislature knew that they could pass a map that complied with the Voting Rights Act and honored the will of community members who stood up and spoke out for fair maps during the redistricting process. When they failed to, the governor rightfully vetoed their unlawful and unfair map. We are going to federal court to demand a map that honors the rights and representation of Black Louisianans. We will be tireless in this fight.”

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The Louisiana House voted, 72-31, and the Senate voted, 27-11, to override Edwards’ veto of House Bill 1 and Senate Bill 5, identical measures that establish new congressional districts for the next decade.

The vote was the first time since 1993 the Legislature successfully mustered the two-thirds majority in both chambers to overrule a gubernatorial veto.

Edwards vetoed the map March 9 “because it does not add a second majority minority district and runs afoul of federal law,” he wrote.

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Democrats and voting rights activists argued throughout a special redistricting session in February the state’s growing Black population – now at about one-third of the total population – deserves the opportunity to elect a representative of their choice in two of Louisiana’s six congressional districts.

Republicans countered that diluting the existing minority majority district to create another could result in no opportunity and repeatedly cited competing priorities in the process, including state and federal laws and criteria set by the Legislature last year.

None of the redistricting maps approved by lawmakers – for the Legislature, Congress, state board of education or Civil Service Commission – expanded minority representation, despite growth in the Black population and a shrinking white population over the past decade.

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“We are challenging these maps because they illegally undermine the political strength of Black voters in Louisiana,” ACLU attorney Alora Thomas-Lundborg said. “These maps run contrary to the principle of a representative democracy and clearly violate the Voting Rights Act.”

The NAACP-backed lawsuit came just hours before Baton Rouge attorney Darrel J. Papillion filed a separate U.S. District Court lawsuit, which also claims violations of the Voting Rights Act, The Tulane Hullabaloo reported.

Both lawsuits, filed against Louisiana Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin, ask the court to issue an injunction preventing the state from implementing the new congressional map, and to order a new redistricting plan that includes two minority majority districts.

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