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Federal court rejects Louisiana congressional maps

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(The Center Square) – A federal court has thrown out the state’s newly-drawn congressional maps that created a second majority Black district, leaving an uncertain outlook for the upcoming elections.

The 2-1 decision issued by a three-judge panel from the U.S. District Court of Western Louisiana called the new maps “an impermissible racial gerrymander” and ordered the parties to return on Monday for a mandatory remedial status conference.

Gov. Jeff Landry could call another special session or the court could draw a new map.

The lawsuit was brought by “non-African American” voters and says the districts were drawn to protect three Republican members of the U.S. House of Representatives: Speaker Mike Johnson, Majority Leader Steve Scalise and Rep. Julia Letlow.

The court agreed that the newly drawn districts, with four majority GOP and two majority Black, resembled the maps from a 1993 redistricting case and were drawn strictly on racial lines without regard for “geographical compactness.”

The litigants say the newly-drawn 6th Congressional District, which stretches 250 miles to connect Black populations of Alexandria, Lafayette, Baton Rouge and Shreveport, was strictly done on racial lines to ensure the creation of two majority Black districts.

In testimony on April 9, state Rep. Mandie Landry, D-New Orleans, told the court that she believed the maps were drawn to settle the litigation and knock Republican U.S. Rep. Garrett Graves, who endorsed Landry foe Stephen Waguespack, out of his seat.

Lawmakers adopted new maps during a five-day special session called by Landry to address a court order from U.S. District Judge Shelly Dick to redraw the state’s congressional districts by Jan. 31.

The order was issued in the case known as Robinson v. Landry. Plaintiffs say Black voters were unable to vote for the candidate of their choice with only one majority Black congressional district in the maps drawn in 2022. Dick sided with plaintiffs and ordered lawmakers to draw a new map. The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and the U.S. Supreme Court declined to review the case.

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