Louisiana lawmakers approve a congressional map with a second Black-majority district

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Louisiana lawmakers on Friday approved a new congressional map that gives the state a second Black-majority US House district and likely puts at risk a Republican-controlled seat.

The legislative action, taken during a special session called to comply with a federal court order, represents a win for Democrats and the civil rights groups that have waged a long-running legal battle over congressional boundaries approved by Louisiana’s Republican-controlled legislature in 2022. A federal judge had concluded that the earlier map discriminated against Louisiana’s Black voters, who make up nearly a third of the state’s population but accounted for a majority of voters in just one of the Bayou State’s six congressional districts.

Louisiana’s special session and other ongoing skirmishes over redistricting have been closely watched in Washington, where Republicans currently hold a threadbare-majority in the US House of Representatives. The outcome of fights over district lines could shape which party controls the chamber after November’s elections.

The legislation establishing new districts is now headed to Louisiana’s newly installed Republican Gov. Jeff Landry, who is expected to sign it.

The legislation “finally offers Black voters in a second congressional district the opportunity to elect their preferred candidates,” Ashley Shelton, the founder and CEO of the Power Coalition for Equity and Justice – a plaintiff in one of the legal battles over the maps – said in a statement.

Former US Attorney General Eric Holder, chairman of the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, said the new map “delivers significant progress for Black Louisianans,” but lamented that it took a protracted legal battle to achieve the result.

Currently, Louisiana has one Black lawmaker, Rep. Troy Carter – who is also the lone Democrat – in its congressional delegation.

The new map creates a second majority-Black district, slicing through the middle of the state, in a district currently held by Republican Rep. Garret Graves.

The new configuration endangers Graves’ chances of reelection. And, in drawing the new lines, Louisiana’s GOP lawmakers rebuffed a public entreaty from House Speaker Mike Johnson, a fellow Louisiana Republican, to continue fighting the court order.

In a statement earlier this week, Johnson argued there were other options that would not require what he called “the unnecessary surrender of a Republican seat in Congress.”

Graves’ spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment Friday. Johnson has not issued a public statement about the final map.

Republican state lawmakers and Landry this week warned that if legislators failed to draw the map themselves, they would hand over the power to a federal judge.

“These maps will … ensure that the congressional districts of our state are made right here in the legislature and not by some heavy-handed member of the federal judiciary,” Landry told lawmakers earlier this week at the opening of the special session.

He said the state had exhausted all of its legal remedies.

US District Judge Shelly Dick, who was appointed to the bench by former President Barack Obama, had given lawmakers until the end of January to draw new lines that would comply with the federal Voting Rights Act.

The new maps approved Friday protect Johnson’s seat, along with that of House Majority Leader Steve Scalise, another Louisiana GOP congressman.

This story has been updated with additional information.

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