SHREVEPORT, La. (KTAL/KMSS) – On Tuesday, Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards called for a special legislative session in Baton Rouge to redraw the state’s congressional district maps before the upcoming election.
The governor’s decision comes after a federal judge ruled in favor of a lawsuit claiming the maps do not accurately represent the state’s population.
“I’m thankful that the courts have looked at the evidence and decided based on that evidence,” said Louisiana House, District 2 State Rep. Sam Jenkins.
Jenkins has been one of the most vocal representatives in opposition to the Louisiana legislature not changing its congressional maps after more than two weeks of discussions earlier in the year and a significant shift in the state’s population.
“It’s very clear that one-third of the population is a population of color,” said Jenkins. “You know we have six congressional districts; two of them would be a fair thing to do. I just don’t understand why it’s such a heavy lift for us to get to that point.”
2020 federal census data showed a nearly four percent increase in the state’s black population since 2010, while the white population in Louisiana declined by 6.3 percent. When no change was made by the legislature, Ashley Shelton, CEO of ‘The Power Coalition,’ a New Orleans-based non-profit civic engagement group, along with the NAACP and nine Louisiana voters, filed a lawsuit.
“I mean, this was historic participation in the redistricting process by not only communities of color, but everyone in this state,” said Shelton, “And for [the judge] to basically codify with her ruling that folks asked for a fair and equitable process, which they did not receive through the legislative process, and so she honored what the people of this state have been asking for both white, black, young and old.”
The judge’s ruling led to the governor calling lawmakers back to the state capitol to oblige and change the maps to reflect the state’s population.
Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin says an appeal has been filed with the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals and a decision on the maps has to come soon.
“We’ve already implemented the new plan that was passed by the legislature and the veto override of the governor, so June 22nd is the drop-dead date,” said Ardoin. “But the bottom line is that’s only a time frame for tweaking. We are a month-and-a-half away from qualifying [for the November primary], and so we really need to have that done.”
Jenkins said despite the time crunch, he feels the special session is needed.
“I think that the governor has done the right thing to call us back into session and give us as a legislative body to do the right thing and produce maps that will fairly show two black districts in the state of Louisiana.”
The special session gets underway on June 15th. It will come to a close on June 20th, the same date the federal judge ruled the new congressional maps must be completed.