Six White state legislators will not give a second Black district keeping the status quo.
Six White Republican senators voted in lockstep Friday to advance legislation that redraws Louisiana’s state Senate and congressional maps without creating additional majority-Black districts, repeatedly overriding the wishes of three Black Democrats. At the opposite end of the State Capitol, House lawmakers voted to move congressional and state school board maps out of committee and onto the House floor, even though neither creates additional opportunities for Black voters to elect candidates of their choice. Friday’s flurry of votes, the first to take place as part of the Legislature’s three-week redistricting session, come after repeated warnings from civil rights groups that failing to draw additional majority-Black districts likely violates the Voting Rights Act – and could result in costly court battles. Many lawmakers assume litigation is inevitable.theadvocate.com
The republicans are sure that they are safe as the courts will find in their favor so there is no worry.
State Sen. Sharon Hewitt, a Slidell Republican and chair of the upper chamber’s redistricting committee, said she’s confident her proposal to redraw Louisiana’s six congressional districts with just one majority-Black district will pass muster in court. The measure, Senate Bill 5, advanced out of committee on a partisan 6-3 vote. It maintains a single majority-Black district stretching from New Orleans East to north Baton Rouge. “We’re working very hard, not just to pass bills, but to pass bills that we can defend in court,” Hewitt said. However, with 33% of the state identifying as Black, civil rights groups have argued that a map that doesn’t create a second majority-Black congressional district would violate Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, which requires minority voters be given an equal opportunity to elect candidates of their choice. The same six White Republicans on the Senate & Governmental Affairs Committee voted to shelve five Democratic measures that would have created a second majority-Black district. Hewitt argued those maps would backfire for minority voters, even as her Black colleagues disagreed and pushed for their approval.
The republicans are using faulty logic to say they are protecting the Black vote from losing an election.
In order for Black voters to have a reasonable opportunity to elect a candidate of choice, Hewitt argued a district needs at least 58% of voters to be Black. The proposals from Senate Democrats each include two districts where Black voters make up between 53% and 56% of voters. But civil rights groups said Hewitt’s “racial benchmark” is misinformed and said a more complicated analysis is needed to determine whether Black-preferred candidates will succeed in a given map. They hired their own experts to do that work and said it’s clear that Black-preferred candidates would perform. The Legislature hired a Washington D.C. law firm to conduct its own analysis, though Hewitt said she’s waiting on a final report. In an interview Friday, Hewitt declined to name the law firm, even though its services are being paid for with taxpayer dollars. The Senate committee also voted 6-3 eo advance Senate Bill 1, which draws new district lines for the state Senate and maintains the status quo of 11 majority-Black districts.
On the other side, the same scenario is being unfolded.
Across the State Capitol, the House & Governmental Affairs Committee met for the first time to consider House Bill 1, Speaker Clay Schexnayder’s proposal to redraw Louisiana’s congressional districts. Similar to Hewitt’s bill, HB1 makes tweaks along the existing maps’ edges – and includes one majority-Black district. St. Landry currently is split between three congressional districts. Schexnayder would put all of St. Landry Parish in the Monroe-based 5th Congressional District. Hewitt put St. Landry in the Shreveport-based 4th Congressional District. Both plans split Baton Rouge, sheering off the majority Black neighborhoods in north Baton Rouge for the minority-majority 2nd Congressional District. The majority White south Baton Rouge districts went to the 6th District. Shreveport Rep. Sam Jenkins, who chairs the House Democratic Caucus, asked Schexnayder whether he had taken into account the public’s desire, repeatedly stated at road shows across the state, for a second majority-Black district. “Did you consider this public input in drawing your map?” Jenkins said. “I took the information that I had to create this map,” Schexnayder replied. “Did you attempt on this particular map to draw a second minority district,” Jenkins said. “Did you see at all if it was possible that there could be two separate majority-minority districts? Or do you think that’s not possible? Or did you consider at all?” “Taking everything we were able to get from the road shows, from the Census, I think this is my best interpretation of a map that I think represents Louisiana,” Schexnayder said.
Best interpretation means we keep the power. But there will be a court case and the prognosis might be good.
Michael Pernick, an attorney with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund Inc., told lawmakers in unequivocal terms that Schexnayder’s proposal violates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. “This is one of the worst bills that we’ve seen,” Pernick said.Still, House lawmakers voted 13-5 to send Schexnayder’s bill to the full House for debate. The battle over redrawing Louisiana’s six congressional districts is expected to intensify over the next two weeks, as the Legislature also crafts new district lines for 105 state representatives, 39 state senators, 8 state school board members, five state utility regulators, and, perhaps, seven state Supreme Court justices. Last week, a federal court in Alabama blocked that state’s congressional map after lawmakers packed Black voters into one of seven congressional districts. The three-judge panel – which included two appointees of former President Donald Trump – determined the configuration likely violated federal law prohibiting minority vote dilution. Similar challenges are ongoing in Texas and North Carolina. “In light of the Alabama lawsuit, I think this is going to be more or less a common occurrence throughout the country,” said Senate President Page Cortez, a Lafayette Republican.
This is how the voting ent.
Voting for a congressional redistricting map with one minority-majority district (6): Chair Sharon Hewitt, R-Slidell;vVice Chair Barry Milligan, R-Shreveport; Sens. Bret Allain, R-Franklin; Franklin Foil, R-Baton Rouge; Mike Reese, R-Leesville; and Glen Womack, R-Harrisonburg. Voting against SB5 and for Senate Bills 4, 9, 11, 16 and 17 (3): Sens. Gregory Tarver, D-Shreveport; Edward J. Price, D-Gonzales; and Jimmy Harris, D-New Orleans Voting for a congressional redistricting map with one minority-majority district (13): Chair John M. Stefanski, R-Crowley; Reps. Gerald “Beau” Beaullieu IV, R-New Iberia; Daryl Andrew Deshotel, R-Marksville; Les Farnum, R-Sulphur; Foy Bryan Gadberry, R-West Monroe; Valarie Hodges, R-Denham Springs; Dodie Horton, R-Haughton; Barry Ivey, R-Central; Mike Johnson, R-Pineville; Jeremy LaCombe, D-Livonia; Tanner Magee, R-Houma; Polly Thomas, R-Metairie; and Malinda White, No Party-Bogalusa. Voting against House Bill 1 (5): Vice Chair Royce Duplessis, D-New Orleans; Reps Wilford Carter Sr., D-Lake Charles; Sam Jenkins, D-Shreveport; Rodney Lyons, D-Marrero; and Candace N. Newell, D-New Orleans.
To win they have to suppress the vote. So they do.