Judge Shelly Dick U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana issued a two-week extension late last week to allow Louisiana lawmakers until the end of January to draw and pass new Congressional boundaries that comply with the Voting Rights Act.
The extension comes after a federal appeals court in New Orleans last month ordered the Louisiana GOP-majority state legislature to draw a new Congressional map by January 15, after a lower court ruled its current district boundaries disenfranchise Black voters there. The new deadline is January 30.
Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) does not plan on calling lawmakers back to Baton Rouge before his term ends January 8, his spokesperson Eric Holl said Sunday. Instead he’ll give Gov-elect Jeff Landry (R) the option of calling a special redistricting session after he’s inaugurated.
Landry has previously vowed to call that special session when his term begins, though a special session could not start until seven days later, which would allow lawmakers roughly two weeks to redraw the map, given the new deadline.
The court order to redraw Louisiana’s map comes after plaintiffs represented by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) argued the current map is racially discriminating; five of the six Congressional districts are white-majority despite Black citizens making up one-third of the state’s population.
Republicans have argued that the Black population is too broadly dispersed throughout the state of Louisiana to be united into a second majority Black district. Democrats have disagreed with that assertion in a debate over the Congressional map that has been ongoing for a year and a half.
Judge Dick, an Obama appointee, initially struck down Louisiana’s map in June 2022, saying in her ruling that “evidence of Louisiana’s long and ongoing history of voting-related discrimination weighs heavily in favor of Plaintiffs.”
If the Louisiana Legislature does not pass a new map by the extended deadline, a lower court will hold a trial, starting February 5, to “decide on a plan for the 2024 elections.”
In September, an appeals court chose a new Congressional map for Alabama from several ordered submissions after the U.S. Supreme Court twice ruled that its previous map disenfranchised Black voters in that state.
Legal challenges to Congressional maps are also ongoing in Arkansas, Florida, Kentucky, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Utah.