BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) — The Louisiana Legislature voted to overturn Governor John Bel Edwards’ veto of the congressional map passed earlier this year. It is the first time in decades that the Louisiana Legislature has overturned the governor’s veto.
Governor Edwards’ veto came due to the map having only one majority-minority district despite one-third of the state’s population coming out at ⅓ Black in the latest census. Republicans banded together to get the majority vote in both the House and Senate to overturn the veto. The House voted 72-31 and the Senate voted 27-11 down party lines and ‘no party’ members sided with the republicans.
“I don’t think there’s another exercise of the legislature that involves more partisanship, more self-interest than in redistricting, and that played out, I think, to an unacceptable degree in the congressional map,” Gov. Edwards said.
Rep. John Stefanski, who was a leader of the redistricting session, defended the bill stating it is the legislature’s constitutional duty to pass the maps. He has argued in the past that more than one minority district would not perform, meaning they would not elect a candidate of their choice. He points to Black Voting Age Population being lower than 55% in two districts. The law only requires majority-minority districts to be 50%+1.
“The Voting Rights Act law, it is not the Louisiana constitution. That’s why we’re here today,” said Rep. Stefanski, (R-Crowley).
Members of the Louisiana Legislative Black Caucus shared their dismay at not gaining what they believe to be equal representation in Congress. Multiple members took to the well to share they felt the process was overshadowed by doing what is best for the party, not the people.
“I don’t feel human today, I don’t feel seen, I don’t feel heard,” said Sen. Karen Carter-Peterson, (D-New Orleans).
Governor John Bel Edwards said he was not surprised the vote went through but believes the courts will find the map to be unconstitutional.
“While I’m disappointed I can only tell you I would be very much more disappointed had I been complicit in having a map I think is so unfair,” Gov. Edwards said.
Sen. Cleo Fields said Louisiana has one of the strongest cases in court to show the map does not follow the Voting Rights Act. Gov. Edwards emphasized his belief that Louisiana should still be under preclearance to make sure they pass fair maps.
It is not decided when the map will land in court for hearings. Speaker of the House Clay Schexnayder released a statement following the vote:
“For the first time in history, the Louisiana Legislature overrode a gubernatorial veto during a veto session. Today, the overwhelming will of the legislature was heard. House Bill 1 fulfills our constitutionally mandated duty to redistrict congress. It also shows true legislative independence and a clear separation of power from the executive branch.”
The Louisiana Legislative Black Caucus President also released a statement:
“I am disappointed in the vote that occurred today. The African American population in this state grew by 4.4% from 2010-2020. Because of this increase, our state’s congressional maps created should include at least two majority-minority districts, but unfortunately, they do not. Furthermore, these maps as drawn violate Section 2 of the voting rights act. We as a caucus are extremely frustrated, as there were multiple attempts made during our Redistricting session to pave the way for another majority-minority district. The LLBC will continue to do what it has always done – fight for those who are underrepresented in the state of Louisiana.”