In defiance of a federal court order, the Louisiana Legislature adjourned Saturday without passing a congressional map with two majority Black districts. A federal judge will now draw a map for the state.
Out of seven maps proposed, only one made it out of committee. Senate Bill 3, sponsored by Sen. Rick Ward, R-Port Allen, created two districts with razor-thin Black majorities. The Senate spent two hours Saturday morning debating the map, then adjourned for an hour-long recess.
Upon returning, Ward, solemnly speaking to an uneasily quiet chamber, announced that a compromise could not be reached, and that he would be returning the bill to the calendar without a vote, killing any chance of passing a map under the court-imposed Monday deadline.
“When you’re dealing with something like this, every time you satisfy four people you lose four people,” Ward told the Senate. “When you satisfy six people you lose seven over here. It is a difficult task.”
Gov. John Bel Edwards condemned the Legislature in a statement.
“It is disappointing that after every opportunity to do the right thing and create a second majority African-American Congressional district as ordered by the U.S. Court for the Middle District, the Legislature has once again failed to do so. The current map passed by legislators violates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. That is why I vetoed it,” Edwards said.
Both chambers of the Legislature voted Wednesday to override Gov. John Bel Edwards’ veto of …
After Dick struck down the map approved by legislators earlier this year on June 6, Edwards called the Legislature back for a six-day special session beginning on Wednesday.
Dick said the map was racially gerrymandered, as only one of the six congressional districts were majority Black, while a third of the state’s population is Black.
Dick gave the Legislature until June 20 to pass a map with two majority Black districts under the threat of a court-drawn map. On Friday, she ordered attorneys involved in the case to submit proposed maps for her to consider. A hearing on the maps will be held on June 29.
Republicans argued that the six-day session was too short of a timeline to pass a new map. To pass a bill in such a short time frame, the Legislature would have to vote to suspend the rules several times.
Still, supporters of the judge’s order pointed out that the Legislature has passed a bill in six days before.
During a Thursday hearing in which legislative leaders requested more time, Dick admonished House Speaker Clay Schexnayder for only meeting for 90 minutes on the first day of the session. The House also declined to meet on Thursday.
In a press conference after the Legislature adjourned, Sen. Cleo Fields, D-Baton Rouge, condemned his colleague’s inaction.
“There was no will from the Legislature,” Fields said.
Ward’s proposal turned Congressional District 6, currently held by U.S. Rep. Garret Graves, a Baton Rouge Republican, into a majority Black district. The proposal also made drastic changes to other districts, drawing the ire of Senators from across the state.
Under the proposal, Baton Rouge, which is mostly in the 6th district, would be split into three districts, the 6th, 1st and 3rd.
Sen. Bodi White, R-Central, argued against splitting the parish.
“I don’t like it because it cuts the parish in three pieces,” White said.
Sen. Heather Cloud, R-Turkey Creek, pushed back on the map, arguing that it could result in the state’s sole female Congressional representative, Julia Letlow, a Republican, losing her seat.
Multiple other Senators argued that the map split communities of interest that they represent.
The multitude of objections ultimately led to the session crumbling.
Ward, who is leaving the Senate, told his colleagues that he didn’t want to use his final moments at the microphone to force them into doomed votes.
After the bill was returned to the calendar, neither chamber had any live instruments, screeching the session to a premature halt.
Republicans still hold out hope that their original bill will prevail.
On Friday, the state asked the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene and preserve the map Dick struck down. The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals will hold a hearing on July 8 to review Dick’s order.
In his statement, Edwards commented on the Legislature declining to pass fair maps on Juneteenth.
“The irony of all ironies is that for the first time yesterday, Louisiana recognized Juneteenth as an official state holiday,” Edwards said. “And today, on the actual holiday, which celebrates the day when enslaved Americans learned of their freedom, it is clear that our African-American brothers and sisters are still fighting for fair representation.”