Baton Rouge, LA. (AP) - louisiana Lawmakers now have until the end of January to draw and pass new congressional boundaries to replace the existing map, which a federal judge said violates the Voting Rights Act by reducing the power of the state's black voters.
However, many questions still remain — including if and when the GOP-dominated legislature will return to the Capitol and, above all, whether lawmakers will be able to agree on a map.
Baton Rouge-based U.S. District Judge Shelley Dick issued a two-week extension Thursday afternoon, giving lawmakers additional time to draw the congressional map, the American Civil Liberties Union confirmed to The Associated Press. The new redistricting deadline is January 30.
The ACLU is representing the plaintiffs.
Outgoing Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards does not plan to recall lawmakers to Baton Rouge to draw a new map, spokesman Eric Hole said Sunday. However, the extension would give incoming Governor-elect Jeff Landry, a Republican, a chance to call a special redistricting session after his inauguration on Jan. 8 — which he had previously vowed to do.
Additionally, the outgoing Senate President and House Speaker have the power to call a special session with the support of a majority of legislators. However, chamber leaders have shown little interest and say it may be better to hand over the job to incoming MPs, The Advocate. informed of,
The current GOP-drawn map of Louisiana, which was used in November's congressional election, has a white majority in five of the six districts — despite Black people making up a third of the state's population.
Democrats argue that the map discriminates against black voters and that there should be two majority-minority districts. Republicans say the map is fair and argue that the black population in the state is too dispersed to be unified into another majority black district.
Currently, five of the six districts are held by Republicans. Another majority black district could give Democrats another congressional seat.
The political tug-of-war and legal battle over the congressional map has been going on for more than a year and a half – including Edwards to veto Political boundaries and legislature overriding His veto – the first violation of the governor's veto in nearly three decades.
In June 2022, Dick revoked Louisiana's map for violating the Voting Rights Act. Dick said in his decision that "the evidence of Louisiana's long and ongoing history of voting discrimination is overwhelmingly in plaintiffs' favor." Dick, a Barack Obama appointee, ordered that the map be redrawn to include a second majority-Black district, before being sent to the federal New Orleans appeals court.
Although Landry vowed to call a special session earlier this month, the timing would not work under the original deadline because Landry would not be inaugurated until January 8 and the session could not begin until seven days later.
If the Legislature does not pass the new map by the extended deadline, a lower district court will hold a hearing and "decide on a plan for the 2024 elections," according to the high court's order. The trial will begin on February 5.
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