Louisiana legislative districts challenged by Black voters
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — New district maps for the Louisiana House and Senate illegally dilute Black voting strength, a lawsuit alleges.
The suit, filed late Monday in U.S. District Court in Baton Rouge, says the new maps “embody Louisiana’s legacy of discrimination.” It asks that the new legislative districts be declared unconstitutional and that election officials be blocked from holding elections using the new maps.
It also seeks a deadline for the state to draw up new maps with more majority-Black districts. Failure to meet the deadline should result in the court ordering a plan that it believes would conform to the federal Voting Rights Act, the lawsuit says.
Lawmakers met in special session last month to draw up new district boundary lines for governmental bodies to reflect population shifts reflected in the 2020 census.
Critics, including Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards, say the maps drawn up by the Republican-led Legislature should have increased Black representation in state House, state Senate and congressional districts.
Legislative leaders say they believe the maps protect voters’ interests and comply with the voting rights act.
Lawyers filed the lawsuit the same day the Legislature convened for a regular session. Bills with alternatives to the maps drawn in February have been filed.
Edwards vetoed the congressional map passed last month because only one of the six newly drawn districts has a majority Black population, while the state’s population is nearly one-third Black. He did not veto the legislative districts but called for passage of maps with more majority-minority districts.
Qualifying for this year’s congressional races opens in July. Legislative races are slated for next year.
The suit was filed on behalf of five Black voters, the nonprofit Black Voters Matter Capacity Building Institute and the Louisiana State Conference of the NAACP by lawyers with the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Louisiana and the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund.
Named as the sole defendant is Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin, the state’s top election official.
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