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Louisiana lawmakers override governors veto of proposed congressional remap

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BATON ROUGE (AP) — Both chambers of the Louisiana Legislature voted Wednesday mainly along party lines to override Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards’ veto of a congressional redistricting bill, marking the first time in 31 years that lawmakers refused to accept a governor’s refusal of a bill they had passed.

The map was passed during a special legislative session called to redraw government district lines to account for population shifts reflected in the 2020 census. The new map is outlined in two identical bills sent to Edwards. The governor vetoed both, saying lawmakers should have included a second majority-Black district among the six districts they approved.

Wednesday’s House vote was 72-31 — more than the two-thirds needed — to turn House Bill 1 into law over Edwards’ objections, The Advocate reported. State senators voted 27-11 in favor of the bill.

But backers of the bill will likely face legal challenges by opponents who say the districts violate federal voting rights law.

The last time a Louisiana Legislature overturned a governor’s veto was in 1991 when then-Gov. Buddy Roemer vetoed an anti-abortion bill.

All 27 Republicans in the Senate voted to override. Joining the Republicans in the House to override the governor’s veto were the three members unaffiliated with either party: Reps Roy Daryl Adams, of Jackson; Joe Marino, of Gretna, and Malinda White, of Bogalusa.

Senate Bill 5 and House Bill 1, which are nearly identical, assign each of the state’s 3,934 precincts to one of Louisiana’s six congressional districts. With some adjustments to fit changes in the U.S. Census, the districts are very close to the ones that elected five White Republicans and one Black Democrat for the past decade.

Democrats proposed about a dozen maps that showed enough Black voters live close enough together to allow for a second minority-majority district under the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965. Baton Rouge Democratic Rep. C. Denise Marcelle said the Democratic alternatives were not fairly considered by the Republican majorities in both chambers.

“This body continues to disregard the shifting demographics of this state,” argued Rep. Royce Duplessis, a New Orleans Democrat. “The House bill is rife with politics.”

The NAACP filed a lawsuit Wednesday afternoon, saying the map "dilutes Black voting strength in violation of the Voting Rights Act of 1965."

Read the lawsuit here.

Republicans countered that the Democratic proposals created districts that splintered other populations with shared interests and created districts with too few Black voters to guarantee a minority candidate would win.

This will be the second time in nine months that the Republican majority has attempted to override the veto of the Democratic governor. Last July, lawmakers failed to overturn the governor’s reversal of a bill that would restrict the participation of transgender athletes. Republicans in the House could only come up with 68 votes. They needed 70.

Republican legislative majorities in Kansas and Kentucky overrode the vetoes of their Democratic governors over redistricting maps and the Democratic majority in Maryland’s general assembly overturned that state’s Republican governor’s rejection of a remap that he felt favored Democrats too much.

Courts already have overturned Republican-leaning maps in Ohio and North Carolina. The maps in 15 states are in litigation, plus at least three civil and human rights organizations have filed lawsuits challenging Louisiana’s map.

Meanwhile, qualifying for the November congressional elections opens July 20. Any new plans could wind up in court. And courts could be asked to step in if lawmakers cannot agree on a plan. A state court in Baton Rouge already has one such lawsuit.

Litigation is also possible because of the way the veto issue is being handled. Lawmakers are in uncharted territory because of the Louisiana Constitution’ s wording.

Lawmakers are already in Baton Rouge for the 2022 regular legislative session, which began March 14. They suspended the regular session Wednesday to hold a “veto session.” The constitution requires that a veto session be held “on the fortieth day following final adjournment of the most recent session.” And Wednesday marks the 40th day after the end of the special session on Feb. 18.

Sen. Karen Carter Peterson argued this week that the current session is “the most recent session,” so the veto session should not be held Wednesday. Others have questioned the legality of interrupting one session to hold another.


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