(The Center Square) – Gov. John Bel Edwards has vetoed the congressional redistricting map approved by the Louisiana Legislature “because it does not add a second majority minority district and runs afoul of federal law.”
“After careful consideration, review, discussion with legislators, and consultation with voting rights experts, I have vetoed the proposed congressional map drawn by Louisiana’s Legislature because it does not include a second majority African American district, despite Black voters making up almost a third of Louisianans per the latest U.S. Census data,” Edwards said.
“This map is simply not fair to the people of Louisiana and does not meet the standards set forth in the federal Voting Rights Act. The Legislature should immediately begin the work of drawing a map that ensures Black voices can be properly heard in the voting booth. It can be done and it should be done.”
Edwards said Wednesday he would withhold his signature from state House and Senate district maps approved by the Legislature during February’s special session, allowing the maps to become law without his approval.
The governor signed bills creating maps for the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education and Public Service Commission “because I believe those maps provided a fairer representation of Louisiana than the other maps that were passed,” Edwards said.
Edwards noted none of the four maps approved by the Legislature created additional majority minority districts, but explained his reasoning for not vetoing the legislative maps.
“While neither the congressional or legislative maps passed by Louisiana’s Legislature do anything to increase the number of districts where minority voters can elect candidates of their choosing, I do not believe the Legislature has the ability to draw new state House and Senate maps during this upcoming legislative session without the process halting the important work of the state of Louisiana,” Edwards said.
“At a time when we face unprecedented challenges, but have unprecedented opportunities to make historic investments in our future, the Legislature should be focused on the issues in the upcoming session and not concerned about what their own districts will look like in the 2023 elections.”
State Sen. Sharon Hewitt, R-Slidell, who sponsored the Legislature-approved congressional map, said she is prepared to discuss an override of Edwards’ veto.
“I am disappointed in the governor’s decision to veto the congressional map [and] am confident that the map the legislature passed meets the requirements of the Voting Rights Act,” Hewitt posted to Twitter. “I look forward to the debate on a veto override.”
The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) Action Fund pointed to the state’s roughly one-third Black population, which has increased by almost 4% over the past decade, in arguing the governor should have vetoed state House and Senate district maps, as well.
“While we commend Governor Edwards for vetoing a congressional districting plan that severely diluted the power of Black voters, the fight for fair representation in Louisiana is far from over,” said Liza Weisberg, staff attorney for the SPLC Action Fund. “The districting plans for the Louisiana House of Representatives and the Louisiana Senate that Governor Edwards declined to veto fail to provide Black voters an equal opportunity to participate in the political process and elect candidates of their choice.”