BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) — The trend continues at the Capitol of republican maps being passed and democratic maps being shut down in committee. Among the arguments are legal questions of if the maps being passed are in violation of the Voting Rights Act.
A lot of the discussion during the redistricting session this week has centered around the Voting Rights Act and there is a lot of disagreement of what exactly it covers when drawing these lines. The key part of the act that lawmakers have to take into account is Section 2.
It banned practices and procedures that result in the denial or abridgment of the right of any citizen to vote on account of race, color, or membership in a language minority group. Sen. Cleo Fields said the Supreme Court maps proposed need to represent the population better under this law.
“We can do better, you know, because we’re better than this and I just ask for your final approval,” said Sen. Fields.
Louisiana used to be under preclearance, which meant the Department of Justice had to approve the maps to ensure they are not taking away opportunity for minority voters to elect their candidate of choice. It only applied to states that had shown a history of being discriminatory towards minority populations. It was repealed in 2013 by the Supreme Court because the data that was being used was over 40 years old and deemed outdated. But Section 2 still applies.
“Section 2 is alive and well today,” said Victoria Wenger, attorney for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. “It truly looks at whether or not Black voters are provided an opportunity to elect their candidate of choice. So it essentially is more encompassing than Section 5.”
There is an argument that two majority-minority districts in the Supreme Court and congressional maps will not produce a minority choice candidate.
“Data analysis from recent elections shows that consistently by huge margins Black voters would be able to elect their candidate of choice,” Wegner said.
The NAACP Legal Defense Fund repeatedly has pointed to the law only requiring 50% of a Black Voting Age Population. They have conducted research for the proposed new minority district and found they did perform to elect a candidate of their choice. Senator Sharon Hewitt has also pointed out that the law does not guarantee a minority candidate and the population being ⅓ Black does not equate to ⅓ Black candidates being elected.
In the end, only Hewitt’s Supreme Court map passed out of committee Wednesday. That map will head over to the House for final approval before it gets sent over to the governor unless it has amendments.