BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) – Legislators are not only working on new district maps, but they are also building up their arguments for court cases they believe are sure to come after the special session.

Two house district maps have risen to the top to form any arguments for court. Neither of the bills create new majority-minority districts, keeping it at 29 of the 105 house seats.

The debate is over if the maps are in line with the Voting Rights Act that prevents voting discrimination based on race. There are challenges to Speaker of the House Clay Schexnayder’s  map with claims it violates the act without an attempt to make a new minority district. 

Republicans formulated their questions to the Democrat proposing a map in the committee as if it was a courtroom.  Rep. Barry Ivey asked Democrat Rep. Sam Jenkins if he believes his map also would be in violation keeping the same number of minority districts. 

“We did not go in and destroy an existing Black district. That district being district 23. We did not disperse that population in a manner that put them into districts that reduce their voting [strategy],” Jenkins said.

Lawmakers are in disagreement of which northwestern district will have to move to the New Orleans area due to population loss. The Speaker’s bill moves District 23 which is currently a majority-minority district held by term-limited Rep. Kenny Cox. Democrats are against the move to New Orleans because they’re concerned the Black voters left behind will not be properly represented in the predominantly white districts they would be spread out into.

Jenkins’ map keeps a majority-minority district in Natchitoches and takes a Republican district from Caddo Parish. Republicans point out it will lower the minority district’s Black Voting Age Population to 50% if it stays in the north. 

“When you’re drawing a district of an even lower BVAP than it currently exists I am very curious ‘does that raise any concern for you with a BVAP that low?,’” Rep. John Stefanski said.

GOP members have argued any district less than 55% of Black voters will not be able to confidently elect a minority choice candidate even though the law only requires it to be 50%.

“It’s not as easy to simply say because a Black Voting Age Population is somewhere between 50-52% that you cannot elect a Black candidate because every area is different,” Rep. Royce Duplessis said.

Duplessis said he is working on an amendment for Jenkins’ map to potentially create an extra majority-minority district. Some legislators are frustrated with both sides for not creating any new minority districts, and they believe all the maps will end up in court.

“Neither one of you are complying with the Voter Rights Act. Both these maps are subject challenged in court because I never heard you say, just like I didn’t hear the chairman say, that there was an effort made to get more minority districts in the legislature,” Rep. Wilford Dan Carter said.

For the congressional maps, the Senate held its first floor vote on the first maps proposed. Sen. Sharon Hewitt’s map would maintain the status quo with some minor changes. It will only have one majority-minority district. Sen. Cleo Fields brought an amendment on the floor that, if replaced, would drastically change her plan and create two majority-minority districts. In the end, the amendment failed in a vote of 12 to 27. The bill passed as it was proposed to the floor in a vote of 27 to 12.

In the debate on Hewitt’s bill, Sen. Karen Carter Peterson asked about a lawyer that had allegedly been hired by the legislature to help with the redistricting process. Hewitt admitted the lawyer from Baker Hostetler named Katherine McKnight had been helping her with the maps.

Peterson asked why no other members had access even though she is paid for with taxpayer dollars. Hewitt said she is not the one in charge of the hiring or the contract. President Page Cortez cleared up that they did, in fact, hire lawyers and no taxpayer money has been spent on it.