NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The Louisiana Legislature's redrawn congressional map giving the state a second mostly Black district is being challenged by 12 self-described “non-African American” voters in a new lawsuit.
The challenge filed Wednesday and assigned to a judge in Lafayette says the map, which Republican lawmakers agreed to as a result of a 2022 federal lawsuit filed in Baton Rouge, is the result of “textbook racial gerrymandering.”
It seeks an order blocking the map's use in this year's election and the appointment of a three-judge panel to oversee the case.
At least one person, state Sen. Cleo Fields, a Black Democrat from Baton Rouge, has already said he will be a candidate in the new district. It is not clear how the lawsuit will affect that district or the 2022 litigation, which is still ongoing.
New government district boundary lines are redrawn by legislatures every 10 years to account for population shifts reflected in census data. Louisiana's Legislature drew a new map in 2022 that was challenged by voting rights advocates because only one of six U.S. House maps was majority Black, even though the state population is roughly one-third Black. A veto of the map by then-Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, was overridden.
In June 2022, Baton Rouge-based U.S. District Judge Shelly Dick issued an injunction against the map, saying challengers would likely win their suit claiming it violated the Voting Rights Act. As the case was appealed, the U.S. Supreme Court issued an unexpected ruling in June that favored Black voters in a congressional redistricting case in Alabama.
In November, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals gave the state a January deadline for drawing a new congressional district.
Gov. Jeff Landry, a Republican who succeeded Edwards in January, was the state's attorney general and was among GOP leaders who had opposed Dick's rulings. But he called a special session to redraw the map, saying the Legislature should do it rather than a federal judge.
The bill he backed links Shreveport in the northwest to parts of the Baton Rouge area in the southeast, creating a second majority-Black district while also imperiling the reelection chances of Rep. Garrett Graves, a Republican who supported an opponent of Landry's in the governor's race.
Landry's office did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment.
Although the new lawsuit names the state's top election official, Secretary of State Nancy Landry, as the defendant, it was filed in Louisiana's western federal district. The suit said it was proper to file there because voters "suffered a violation of their rights under the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments in this district."
Most of the judges in the Western District were nominated to the bench by Republicans. The assigned judge, David Joseph, was appointed by former President Donald Trump.