NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A federal judge in Baton Rouge refused on Thursday to delay her order for Louisiana to redraw its congressional districts while the state’s top elections official appeals.
U.S. District Judge Shelly Dick had ruled Tuesday that the map violates the Voting Rights Act and must be reworked by June 20 to add a second majority Black district. Louisiana is nearly one-third African American and has six U.S. House sets.
Court papers for Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin call the deadline “unworkable.” But Dick wrote that the state's argument was “insincere and not persuasive.”
The state requires seven days’ notice of the start of the session and three days for bill reading , she wrote. That “would require ten days total, and this Court gave the Legislature fourteen,” she said.
Ardoin also said state defendants will be irreparably harmed without a stay. The judge called that position “disingenuous,” saying delay would cause substantial harm to voters who sued the state.
She noted that House Speaker Clay Schexnayder, who joined the suit on Ardoin’s side, told another judge that Louisiana’s “election calendar is one of the latest in the nation” and that “the election deadlines that actually impact voters do not occur until October 2022.”
“A stay increases the risk that Plaintiffs do not have an opportunity to vote under a nondilutive congressional map until 2024, almost halfway through this census cycle,” she wrote. “Finally, the Court finds that the public interest lies in conducting elections under a legal map.”
Ardoin does not comment on pending litigation, spokesperson Kaylee Trisler said.
“As we've said from the beginning, a map that does not have a second majority Black district violates the law,” said Jared Evans of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. He said the order “confirms and affirms what we've been saying throughout the process."
He added that the legislature has “plenty of time" to enact and pass a map compliant with federal law.
Gov. John Bel Edwards has called a special session starting June 15 to redraw the map. He vetoed it, saying it violated the law, but his veto was overridden.
The case could wind up before the U.S. Supreme Court.
Ardoin's request for a stay noted that “a three-judge district court in Alabama issued an injunction similar to this Court’s, and the Supreme Court stayed that injunction pending appeal.”
Janet Mcconnaughey, The Associated Press