BATON ROUGE (AP) — A request by Louisiana legislative leaders to extend the deadline of completing a new congressional map — that must include a second majority-Black district — was rejected by a federal judge Thursday.
During the morning hearing, U.S. District Judge Shelly Dick was unpersuaded by the legislative leaders that they required more time to complete that once-a-decade task of redistricting. Dick additionally described the efforts by House Speaker Clay Schexnayder on the first day of the six-day special session as “disingenuous” and “insincere.”
"With five days to work with they met for 90 minutes (yesterday),” Dick said.
The Republican-dominated legislature and Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, have been fighting over the boundaries since February, when lawmakers approved a congressional map with white majorities in five of six districts. Democrats and the Louisiana Legislative Black Caucus argue that the current map dilutes the political clout of African American voters and that at least two of the six districts should have Black majorities.
Last week, Dick threw out the adopted map for violating the Voting Rights Act and ordered lawmakers to create a new one with a second majority Black district by June 20. Louisiana is nearly one-third Black.
Louisiana lawmakers returned to the Capitol on Wednesday, for the special session called by the governor, to resume their work amid growing frustrations under the looming court deadline.
Schexnayder and Senate President Page Cortez, both Republicans, say it will be extremely difficult to agree on and pass a new map in the six-day timeframe allotted. However, during Thursday's hearing Cortez said although the task is difficult it is not impossible.
"Is there enough time? Yes," Cortez said, adding that it would require suspending the rules and “reducing transparency.”
Dick noted that approving a new congressional map in six days has been done by the Louisiana Legislature before — specifically in 1994.
Dick's ruling Thursday to reject a motion for extension means lawmakers have until Monday at 6 p.m. to come up with a new map that includes two majority-minority districts.
On Thursday, a Senate committee was in the process of meeting on two maps. One mirrors the current map and one would carve out a second majority-Black district.
A House committee is set to consider four redistricting bills Friday at 10 a.m.
Sara Cline, The Associated Press