Governor John Bel Edwards will veto congressional cards that are not “fair.” What does it mean? | New

With Governor John Bel Edwards in the governor’s mansion, Louisiana Democrats will have a seat at the table when lawmakers return to Baton Rouge in February to begin the decade-long process of redrawing the state’s political maps.

So far, Edwards has been quiet about how he will exercise his power against a Republican-dominated legislature. He has said on several occasions that he wants to see “fair cards” and, in his monthly radio show Wednesday, went further: “I will veto bills which I believe suffer from flaws. basic equity terms. “

Democrats are hoping that when the dust settles Edwards will demand a congressional card that includes a second district where a majority of voters are black. But the only Democratic governor in the Deep South questioned whether this was a deal breaker to win his signature.

In an interview Thursday, Edwards said it would be both “appropriate” and “ideal” for two of Louisiana’s six congressional districts to be majority minority, given the 2020 census results, which showed that ‘About 33% of Louisiana’s population identify as Black.

“But you have to be able to put them in a district with a map that looks somewhat regular, because obviously you have this population scattered throughout (the state),” Edwards said.

The Democratic governor added that a fair card would avoid the practice of “packing and cracking,” political jargon to concentrate like-minded constituencies in a small number of districts in order to dilute their voting power. It’s the route lawmakers took a decade ago, when they brought together black voters from Baton Rouge to New Orleans to create the 2nd Congressional District, now represented by U.S. Representative Troy Carter, D -Alger.

Louisiana Black Legislative Caucus Chairman State Representative Ted James said lawmakers have a “simple obligation to keep up with the numbers,” and with one-third of Louisiana’s population identifying themselves as black, the math is simple: “one-third of six is ​​two.”

James, a Democrat from Baton Rouge, said it made no sense to bundle Capitol City with the Big Easy. “I ask that Southern University in Baton Rouge is not in the same district as Southern University in New Orleans,” James said at a town hall meeting Tuesday before lawmakers who will lead efforts to draw the news. cards.

Melissa Flournoy, former state lawmaker and head of Louisiana Progress Action, said “fair cards” should prioritize racial proportionality and competitiveness. She said the current delegation to Louisiana’s congressional districts will include “five hard-core Republicans” and “one African-American congressman, who for all intents and purposes should represent the voices of African-Americans” across the board. ‘State.

For black residents, Carter is the only “congressman who will return the calls,” Flournoy accused.

At Tuesday night’s redistribution roadshow, Jacquelyn Germany, from Black Baton Rouge, told state lawmakers she was “sick and tired of not being fairly represented in Congress.” Germany is a resident of the Eden Park district, a community on the dividing line between the 2nd and 6th congressional districts. This has left her community “neglected,” she said.

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Gary Chambers, an activist from Baton Rouge who campaigned for the 2nd Congressional District earlier this year, said: “If you live in Baton Rouge and you are black you have to negotiate with people who grew up in the city. New Orleans and New Orleans wants this. seat.”

A coalition of major civil rights organizations, led by the NAACP Legal Defense & Education Fund, sent a letter to state lawmakers in October with seven different ideas on how Louisiana could redraw its maps to include a second district where blacks constitute the majority of voters. They targeted the Monroe-based 5th Congressional District, represented by Congresswoman Julia Letlow, R-Start, in their proposals.

“The state has had only four black members of Congress since Reconstruction,” the letter said. “This is a direct consequence of the configuration of Louisiana’s congressional districts: Black voters are crammed into District 2, the state’s only majority minority opportunity district, and black communities are scattered among the five predominantly white districts in the state (Districts 1, 3, 4, 5, 6). “

The predominantly white constituencies of Congress have never elected a black candidate. Since 1965, when the Voting Rights Act was passed, voters in Louisiana have sent 45 white representatives to Congress.

Louisiana is one of twelve states in the country where the legislature and governor are controlled by opposing political parties. This further sheds light on Edwards and his veto power.

Earlier this year, the Southern Coalition for Social Justice in Durham, North Carolina, asked Edwards to make public the criteria that would trigger his veto, but he asked to postpone the discussion until after the regular session.

On Thursday, Edwards again said it was too early for him to think about vetoing the cards.

“I don’t often talk about veto threats (when) we haven’t even started the session,” Edwards said. “I look forward to working with the Legislature with the goal of drawing fair maps that represent the state and its current configuration. “

Even though the governor has detailed his veto criteria, it is unlikely to influence how Republican lawmakers draw the cards, Flournoy said. She said the best strategy might be to wait and see what the GOP sends him, and hope he is blatant and selfish enough to turn against them.

“My feeling is that the governor doesn’t want to be directly involved, that this is a legislative function and that he will wait and see what they present to him,” she said.

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