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Louisiana lawmakers set to redraw congressional map — again. Is it their last chance?

The Louisiana State Capitol in Baton Rouge in April 2022.
Kezia Setyawan
The Louisiana State Capitol in Baton Rouge in April 2022.

Gov. Jeff Landry called a special session Monday — his first day in office — to address redistricting.

The call for a special session has been highly anticipated and will focus on Louisiana’s congressional map. But Landry also wants lawmakers to redraw Louisiana’s Supreme Court districts. And he is asking lawmakers to address other election issues, including campaign finance laws and whether to switch from an open to closed primary.

A federal court gave Louisiana’s Legislature a January deadline to redraw the state’s congressional map in compliance with the federal Voting Rights Act. That likely means lawmakers will have to include a second majority-Black district.

Right now, only one district out of six has a majority-Black population — even though Black residents make up about two-thirds of the state’s population.

Louisiana lawmakers will convene on Jan. 15 at 4 p.m. and can end the session no later than 6 p.m. on Jan. 23.

This is Louisiana’s third redistricting session in just two years. And it could be lawmakers’ final chance to redraw the state’s map before a judge does it for them.

“If we don't draw another minority district, then [the courts] will,” Louisiana House Speaker Phillip DeVillier, R-Eunice, said.

Senate President Cameron Henry, R-Metairie, and Sen. Cleo Fields, D-Baton Rouge, agree with DeVillier. Both told WRKF and WWNO this feels like lawmakers’ final chance.

Even though lawmakers failed to draw a second minority district in the past two special sessions, Henry said he expects lawmakers to draw and pass such a map this time.

“I think we’ll be able to get a map that everyone can be comfortable with and it falls within the parameters of what the judge has asked us to do,” Henry said.

Louisiana’s congressional map is one of several across the country at the center of a redistricting battle that could change the balance of power in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Louisiana’s current congressional map — drawn in 2022 — includes only one district out of six in which a majority of the population is Black. But Black residents account for about a third of the state’s total population.

Organizations and residents concerned that the map didn’t fairly offer Black Louisianans representation in Congress challenged the map in court. The ensuing legal battle over the map has dragged on for well over a year.

For months in 2023, Louisiana’s redistricting case was put on hold by the U.S. Supreme Court pending its decision in a similar case in Alabama. In June, the Supreme Court ruled that Alabama’s congressional map violated the federal Voting Rights Act and ordered Alabama to draw a new map with a second majority-Black district.

That decision, which came as a surprise from the mostly conservative court, was met with excitement from Louisiana Democrats and voting rights activists who feel that the ruling bolsters the case for a second majority-Black district in Louisiana.

After that decision, the Supreme Court released its hold on Louisiana’s redistricting case, which remained in a sort of limbo for several months before a federal court gave the Legislature a January deadline to redraw the map.

Now, Henry says it’s time for lawmakers to redraw the map with a second majority-Black district before they lose the chance to draw the map at all.

“I think we're all happy that we have the opportunity,” Henry said. “I don’t think we should squander it by not doing anything. I think members have accepted the fact that we have to draw it [second majority-Black district].”

Molly Ryan is a political reporter and covers state politics from the Louisiana Capitol.