The Louisiana Legislature has until Jan. 15 to enact a new congressional map after a lower court ruled that the current boundaries weaken the power of Black voters in the state, an appeals court ruled Friday.
The order by a three-judge panel in the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals was released Friday. It tosses out the 2022 ruling, and it is the latest in the state’s redistricting fight, which could determine which party controls the state House following the 2024 elections.
The order said “the district court’s 2022 preliminary injunction, issued with the urgency of establishing a map for the 2022 elections, is no longer necessary.”
The opinion clarified that uncertainty remains regarding how external factors could affect developments in the case ahead of Jan. 15. Current Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards may call a special session to redraw the boundaries, but Republican Gov.-elect Jeff Landry could also call a special redistricting session in the handful of days following his Jan. 8 inauguration.
If the Legislature does not take up the plan and create a new map, a lower district could conduct a trial.
The court argued “an opportunity to adopt a new plan is appropriate since redistricting is a quintessential obligation of a state after a census.”
Bel Edwards previously vetoed new congressional maps that were advanced by the state’s Republican-controlled legislature. Bel Edwards said he thought the maps did not accurately reflect the makeup of Louisiana, a state where nearly 33 percent of residents are Black.
With the proposed districts, only one of the state’s six districts would have had a majority-Black population.
An earlier map was blocked by a federal district judge’s preliminary ruling, which sided with a group of Black voters that claim the map design violated the Voting Rights Act.
The state’s Legislature overrode Bel Edward’s veto, the first time in nearly three decades that lawmakers refused to accept a governor’s refusal of a bill they had passed.
Republicans argued that the map was fair and the state’s Black population was too dispersed across the state to warrant a second district.
The district court would need to consider whether the new plan is in line with the Voting Rights Act or whether another preliminary injunction is necessary, the appeals court argued Friday.
The court argued they chose the Jan. 15 deadline because they wanted to “allow newly elected officials to play an effective role in the process.”
The Associated Press contributed.
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