Bill to grow congressional district’s Black population fails
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Legislation to increase the Black population in a mostly white Louisiana congressional district was rejected by a state House panel Monday.
With efforts to create a second majority-Black congressional district having failed so far in a special legislative session that must end by Sunday night, state Rep. Marcus Bryant had put forth the bill as a possible alternative that would give African Americans a greater voice in a north Louisiana district while still providing a chance for an incumbent white Republican to win reelection.
Bryant’s amended bill would have kept one majority-Black district in southeast Louisiana, while making major boundary changes to north Louisiana’s districts 4 and 5, now represented by conservative white Republicans.
District 5, represented by Julia Letlow and now covering much of northeast Louisiana, would have shifted southward and extended to the western state line, encompassing parts of northeast, central and southeast Louisiana. District 4, now covering northwest Louisiana, would have extended across the northern part of the state from west to east, with a section dipping into the Alexandria area of central Louisiana.
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It would have increased the Black registered voter population in District 4 to about 43% from about 34%. Bryant, who is from New Iberia, argued that it would make the district more competitive, giving Black residents a greater political voice, but still enabling the current incumbent, conservative white Republican Mike Johnson, the ability to win.
“It doesn’t make anybody happy,” said Bryant, a Democrat who is Black. “It doesn’t make my party happy. It doesn’t make the Republican Party happy — which, to me, makes it fair.”
Bryant’s bill died in an 8-7 vote Monday morning, with little debate.
The special session was called to redraw district boundary lines for Congress, the state House and Senate, and other political bodies to reflect shifts in population reflected in the 2020 Census. Voting rights advocates have said the Legislature needs to create a second majority-minority congressional district in a state where Black people make up about a third of the population but are represented by only one of six U.S. House members.
The Republican-led Legislature has so far advanced plans that largely keep existing districts intact, with some changes to compensate for losses in population in north Louisiana and increases in south Louisiana.
Voting rights advocates are likely to file court challenges to any congressional map that doesn’t give Louisiana a second majority-Black district. But the fate of such challenges is uncertain, given a recent U.S. Supreme Court order reversing three lower court judges and effectively stopping efforts to create a second mostly Black congressional district in Alabama in time for this year’s election.
Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, said at a Monday news conference that a map can and should be drawn that includes a second majority-minority congressional district. But he said he hasn’t made a decision yet on whether to veto a measure that doesn’t include one, stressing that no bill has made it through the Legislature.
Each chamber has approved its own version of a congressional remap bill by what appears to be the two-thirds margin necessary to override a veto. “If it is over two-thirds, and you have serious concerns with it, you have to then engage in conversations with a number of members — House and Senate,” Edwards said.
His primary consideration, he said, was whether the bill is bad enough to warrant a veto. “Any governor who tells you that he or she vetoes bills without considering the likelihood of an override, I think they would be fudging just a little bit.”
Also Monday, the state Senate approved a bill redrawing its own district boundary lines to account for population shifts. The measure approved keeps 11 majority-minority districts in the 39-member Senate, The Advocate reported. House members were debating district lines for their 105-member body.