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Gov. John Bel Edwards comes out in favor of 2nd majority-Black congressional district

Gov. John Bel Edwards speaks at the statehouse in Baton Rouge.
Wallis Watkins
Gov. John Bel Edwards speaks at the statehouse in Baton Rouge.

As the decennial redistricting session looms in Louisiana, Gov. John Bel Edwards said Thursday that he supports redrawing the state’s congressional maps to include two majority minority districts to better represent the state’s Black population.

The comments are the most detailed insight Edwards has provided into his approach to redistricting to date and are aligned with progressive political action groups that have long sought a second majority-Black congressional district in Louisiana.

“We have a minority population, an African American population, of 32-33%,” Edwards said at his year-end press conference Thursday. “We have six congressional districts. And so fairness — if it can be done — would be to have two out of the six congressional districts be minority districts.”

The move would almost certainly result in the consolidation of the two congressional districts in North Louisiana, which encompass Monroe and Shreveport, and shift a safely-Republican seat to Democratic control.

Previously, Edwards has indicated that he would veto electoral maps that had “defects in basic fairness” but up to this point had not said what maps would look like. Edwards acknowledged that the change would require a “major reworking” of the state’s current political boundaries, but said it would be worth the effort.

“Obviously, if we want to talk about fairness and making sure that the maps reflect the reality of what the situation is on the ground, that should be our goal, and I’m hopeful that we’re going to be able to get there,” Edwards said.

The redistricting process is in the hands of the predominantly Republican state legislature.

During the last redistricting cycle, Louisiana state lawmakers packed Black voters into the state’s 2nd Congressional District, which includes New Orleans, then snakes along the Mississippi River to scoop out the predominantly Black communities in north Baton Rouge.

The move created a safe Democratic district, but has diluted the political power of Louisiana’s Black residents in Congress.

The GOP controls a supermajority in the state Senate and is just two seats shy of that mark in the state House of Representatives, but so far GOP legislative leaders have been unable to override any gubernatorial vetoes since securing those seats in 2019. Earlier this year, Edwards rallied Democrats and Independents in the House and fought off the first veto override attempted by the state legislature in a generation.

The victory for Edwards, and defeat for Republican legislative leaders, likely means that the second-term Democratic governor will have a significant role in the redistricting process.

On Thursday, Louisiana lawmakers began circulating a petition to officially call a special redistricting session slated to begin in February. Lawmakers are constitutionally required to approve new maps for Congress, the state’s Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, Public Service Commission and the state House and Senate. Lawmakers may also consider redrawing the state’s Supreme Court Districts, which have become unbalanced because of the state’s shifting population, but they are under no obligation to do so.

The creation of an additional majority-minority district has been a hot topic at the series of public hearings held by the legislature’s Joint Governmental Affairs Committee this fall. Black residents at each meeting have pushed for more influence in the state’s politics.

Copyright 2021 WRKF. To see more, visit WRKF.

Paul Braun is WRKF's Capitol Access reporter.

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