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Court Orders Louisiana Lawmakers to Enact New Congressional Map by January 15

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth District in New Orleans has given the Louisiana Legislature a deadline of January 15 to enact a new congressional map following a lower court ruling that found the current boundaries dilute the power of the state’s Black voters.

If the Legislature fails to pass a new map by mid-January, the lower district court will take over and decide on a plan for the 2024 elections, as per the court order.

The ongoing battle over Louisiana’s GOP-drawn congressional map has seen political and legal challenges for over a year and a half. This has included a veto by Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards, which was overridden by the legislature, marking the first time in nearly three decades that lawmakers refused to accept a governor’s veto of a bill they had passed.

Louisiana’s current map, used in the November congressional election, has white majorities in five of six districts despite Black people accounting for one-third of the state’s population. Republicans argue that the map is fair, stating that Black populations in the state are too dispersed to be united into a second majority Black district. On the other hand, Democrats argue that the map discriminates against Black voters and that there should be two majority-minority districts to provide better representation.

In June 2022, a lower court ruled that Louisiana’s map violated the Voting Rights Act and ordered a redraw to include a second majority-Black district, a decision that was appealed to the 5th Circuit. In October, the Supreme Court rejected an emergency appeal from Black voters in Louisiana to expedite the process of drawing new congressional districts in the state.

Lawmakers now have until mid-January to draw and pass a new map, which would have to be done through a special session. Gov.-elect Jeff Landry, who will be inaugurated on Jan. 8, will have to consider whether to call for a special redistricting session and if there’s enough time to meet the court’s deadline.

While Gov. Edwards has not confirmed whether he will call a special session, he has emphasized the necessity of a second majority-Black district for accurate representation of the state. U.S. Rep. Troy Carter, the state’s sole Black and Democratic member of Congress, has also urged lawmakers to draw a new map with a second majority-Black district.

Given the timing constraints, if Gov.-elect Landry calls a special session, it will need to be carefully coordinated, as the session cannot start until seven days after his inauguration, pushing it close to the January 15 deadline.

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