November 12, 2023

Appeals court says Louisiana must redraw congressional district map by Jan. 15

In a decision that could have noteworthy implications for the 2024 election cycle, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals determined last week that “racial gerrymandering” took place when Louisiana redrew its congressional district maps and gave the state until Jan. 15 to create new boundaries, as the Daily Caller reports.

As such, it falls to current Gov. John Bel Edwards or soon-to-be-inaugurated Gov.-elect Jeff Landry to call a special session of the legislature to get the job done in time to meet the deadline, according to the Associated Press.

Court finds improper gerrymandering

The appeals panel ruled that the original redistricting map, created in 2021, was drawn in such a way as to block Black voters from claiming a majority in five out of Louisiana's six districts.

The state contended that using race as a key criterion when drawing voting districts constitutes a violation of the 14th Amendment's Equal Protection Clause.

However, the court determined that more “racial proportionality” was required and that a redrawing process would need to take place to accomplish that objective, citing a June Supreme Court decision mandating consideration of race in redistricting efforts.

In its decision, the court explained, “A racial gerrymander is present when citizens are assigned by the state to legislative districts based on race, such that one district will have racially similar individuals who otherwise have little in common geographically or politically.”

“The Supreme Court has implemented a high bar to racial gerrymander challenges...we find that this high bar was not met on this record,” the court went on.

New map needed

As such, the court imposed a Jan. 15 deadline for Louisiana to offer up a newly drawn map featuring two Black-majority districts.

Failure to comply in that time frame will result in a redrawing of the map by a district court for the 2024 cycle, with no legislative input allowed.

Bel Edwards expressed his approval of the court's decision, saying, “This is about simple math, basic fairness, and the rule of law.”

If Landry decides to call a special session to produce a new map, the timeline will be exceedingly tight, given that his inauguration is not slated to take place until Jan. 8, and the legislature could not convene until seven days after he issues such a proclamation, pushing the earliest possible date to Jan. 15 – the court-imposed deadline.

Regardless of the eventual mechanics involved, the addition of a Black-majority district could serve to change a Republican-held district to a Democrat-held one, putting the GOP's narrow House majority at real risk.

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