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Democrats: Judge should move now to redraw districts

April 27, 2021 GMT

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A lawsuit filed by eight southeast Louisiana Democrats says a New Orleans judge should prepare now to redraw the state’s congressional district map because the Democratic governor and a majority Republican Legislature won’t be able to agree on a plan in time for the 2022 elections.

The lawsuit was filed in state court in New Orleans late Monday, the same day that new U.S. census figures were released. The suit says it is clear now that population shifts will require changes in boundary lines to make sure each of the state’s six districts represents the same number of people. Using the current district map would be unconstitutional, the lawsuit says.

Because census details needed to redraw the maps for the 2022 congressional elections are still months away, and because of the partisan division in state government, “this Court should assume jurisdiction now and establish a schedule that will enable the Court to adopt its own plan in the near certain event that the political branches fail to timely do so,” the suit says.

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Louisiana’s top election official, Republican Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin, is the defendant in the lawsuit, which was assigned to Civil District Court Judge Sidney Cates. The plaintiffs include Democrats living in Louisiana’s 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 6th congressional districts, which the suit says are now overpopulated relevant to the sprawling 4th and 5th districts that dominate north and central Louisiana.

All but the 2nd District are solidly Republican.

The “impasse litigation” lawsuit was one of three filed in state courts across the nation with backing from the National Redistricting Action Fund, which announced its plans Tuesday during a call with former Attorney General Eric Holder. Similar lawsuits were announced for Minnesota and Pennsylvania.

Ardoin issued a statement Tuesday saying his office had not yet been served with the lawsuit, but adding, “based on what I have read, I believe the lawsuit by a group of Democratic operatives and party insiders is grossly premature.”

He noted his office has no role in redistricting and said having a state court supersede lawmakers’ responsibility in drawing up district lines was “troubling.”

Legislative leaders, currently presiding over a legislative session, didn’t immediately respond to an emailed request for comment. A spokeswoman for Gov. John Bel Edwards said the governor’s office had not yet seen the lawsuit.

“Governor Edwards is committed to working with Legislators to ensure that districts are fairly drawn and his door is open to work with anyone who comes in good faith to do that,” Christina Stephens said in an email.