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5 of these maps could have given Louisiana a 2nd Black congressional district, but were voted down

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Paul Braun
/
WRKF
Members of the Republican-controlled Senate and Governmental Affairs Committee (left) voted down five congressional map proposals submitted by Senate Democrats that would have given Louisiana two majority-Black congressional districts, including three proposals submitted by Sen. Cleo Fields (D-Baton Rouge). Feb. 4, 2022.

In the first vote of the state’s once-in-a-decade redistricting session, a Republican-controlled Senate committee voted down five proposals that would have given Louisiana a second majority-Black congressional district and advanced instead a GOP-backed plan that civil rights groups claim violates federal law.

After lengthy debate, the Senate and Governmental Affairs Committee approved a map proposed and supported by Republican legislative leaders that does not include a second majority-Black district. The panel voted down five maps submitted by Democrats that would create a second majority-Black district.

Civil rights groups have argued that Louisiana, with its 33% Black population, must have two majority-Black congressional districts to comply with provisions of the Voting Rights Act that prohibit states from drawing maps that dilute the political power of Black voters.

But the state’s Republican legislative leaders so far have shown little interest in redrawing the maps to create a second majority-Black district.

Friday’s vote removes the five Democrat-supported maps from consideration this session and signals that the Senate committee is unlikely to approve any proposal that would give Louisiana a second majority-Black district.

Here is a review of the maps they considered in the first week of the redistricting session:

SB2: Sen. Cleo Fields (D-Baton Rouge)

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Louisiana Legislature
SB2, sponsored by Sen. Cleo Fields (D-Baton Rouge), is the first of three congressional maps he proposed that would give Louisiana two majority-Black congressional districts.

SB2, sponsored by Sen. Cleo Fields (D-Baton Rouge), is the first of three congressional maps he proposed that would give Louisiana two majority-Black congressional districts. The map would shift the predominantly Black population of north Baton Rouge and metropolitan Lafayette into the 5th Congressional District and the population of the 2nd Congressional District would remain concentrated in New Orleans. Fields, who represented Louisiana’s 4th Congressional District from 1993 to 1997, pointed out that Louisiana has had only five Black U.S. Representatives since it became a state. He said it is time for that to change.

“Louisiana elects more white congressmen in one year than they have elected Black congressmen in a lifetime,” Fields said. “So I present to you several plan that produce a second minority district.”

Voting Age Population

District 2: 52.3% Black 36.9% White

District 5: 51.7% Black 43.1% White

SB2 was deferred by the Republican-controlled Senate and Governmental Affairs Committee with a 6-3 vote along partisan lines Friday, Feb. 4. It will not advance to the full Senate.

SB4: Sen. Cleo Fields (D-Baton Rouge)

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Louisiana Legislature
SB4, sponsored by Sen. Cleo Fields (D-Baton Rouge), also creates two minority districts by anchoring the 2nd Congressional District in New Orleans and the 5th Congressional District in north Baton Rouge.

SB4, sponsored by Fields, also creates two minority districts by anchoring the 2nd Congressional District in New Orleans and the 5th Congressional District in north Baton Rouge. Fields and his partners with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, who helped author all of his proposed congressional maps, presented SB4 as a slight variation on SB2, that worked to hold together communities of interest in the Acadiana Region and north Louisiana that GOP lawmakers have said they would like to preserve.

“There are a variety of maps before you, and we just want to give the committee a variety of options,” said Jared Evans, policy council for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.

Voting Age Population

District 2: 53.7% Black 35.7% White

District 5: 52.0% Black 41.6% White

SB4 was deferred by the Republican-controlled Senate and Governmental Affairs Committee with a 6-3 vote along partisan lines Friday, Feb. 4. It will not advance to the full Senate.

SB5: Sen. Sharon Hewitt (R-Slidell)

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Louisiana Legislature
SB5, sponsored by Sen. Sharon Hewitt (R-Slidell) and chair of the Senate and Governmental Affairs Committee, would largely maintain the racial makeup of the state’s congressional districts.

SB5, sponsored by Sen. Sharon Hewitt (R-Slidell) and chair of the Senate and Governmental Affairs Committee, would largely maintain the racial makeup of the state’s congressional districts. Hewitt argued that the Voting Rights Act does not guarantee minority representation in equal proportion with their share of the population. She focused on drawing a map that preserved the communities of interest that were prioritized in the last redistricting cycle by maintaining the state’s two majority-white districts in north Louisiana and creating districts with identical populations that did not split any voting precincts.

“I do not believe, and there is too much uncertainty to convince us otherwise, that a second majority-minority district can be drawn in Louisiana that is sufficiently compact and would perform as a minority district without greatly diminishing the opportunity to elect the candidate of choice that is currently afforded to the voters in Congressional District 2,” Hewitt said.

Voting Age Population:

District 2: 58.7% Black 30.8% White

Status: SB5 was approved by the Republican-controlled Senate and Governmental Affairs Committee with a 6-3 vote along partisan lines Friday, Feb. 4. It will advance to the full Senate.

SB9: Sen. Cleo Fields (D-Baton Rouge)

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Louisiana Legislature
SB9, sponsored by Sen. Cleo Fields (D-Baton Rouge), also creates two majority-Black districts out of the 2nd Congressional District and the 5th Congressional District.

SB9, also by Fields, also creates two majority-Black districts out of the 2nd Congressional District and the 5th Congressional District. The map would split East Baton Rouge among three congressional districts: the majority-Black 2nd and 5th Districts and the majority-white 6th District. That concerned Sen. Franklin Foil (R-Baton Rouge), who said his constituents like the way the current congressional districts divide north and south Baton Rouge.

“The more the merrier,” Fields said. “The more people we can call upon to talk about bringing dollars to East Baton Rouge Parish, the better — but yes, it does split Baton Rouge into several congressional districts.”

Voting Age Population

District 2: 52.3% Black 37.7% White

District 5: 51.6% Black 43.1% White

Status: SB9 was deferred by the Republican-controlled Senate and Governmental Affairs Committee with a 6-3 vote along partisan lines Friday, Feb. 4. It will not advance to the full Senate.

SB11: Sen. Gary Smith (D-Norco)

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Louisiana Legislature
SB11, sponsored by Sen. Gary Smith (D-Norco), would create two majority-Black districts in the 2nd and 5th Congressional Districts.

SB11, sponsored by Sen. Gary Smith (D-Norco), would create two majority-Black districts in the 2nd and 5th Congressional Districts. Smith said the map focuses on compactness and grouping voters not based on race, but rather party affiliation. Even with that approach, Smith’s map creates districts with a racial makeup strikingly similar to the maps submitted by his Democratic colleagues.

“This map takes the approach of really trying to make these districts more compact and to not have districts be ‘Zs’ or to wrap around things,” Smith said. “It’s really one of the most concise maps at putting districts together.”

Voting Age Population

District 2: 52.2% Black 38.9% White

District 5: 51.4% Black 43.0% White

Status: SB11 was deferred by the Republican-controlled Senate and Governmental Affairs Committee with a 6-3 vote along partisan lines Friday, Feb. 4. It will not advance to the full Senate.

SB16: Sen. Jay Luneau (D-Alexandria)

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Louisiana Legislature
SB16, sponsored by Sen. Jay Luneau (D-Alexandria), creates districts that raised some eyebrows on the Senate and Governmental Affairs Committee.

SB16, sponsored by Sen. Jay Luneau (D-Alexandria), creates districts that raised some eyebrows on the Senate and Governmental Affairs Committee. Luneau said the map shows that two minority districts can be created while reuniting many parishes that had previously been split by district lines. It stretches the 5th Congressional District to include north Baton Rouge, Monroe and Shreveport to create a second majority-Black district. It also puts part of Lafayette in the 2nd Congressional District with New Orleans.

“It’s not perfect — I don’t think there is a perfect map, quite frankly,” Luneau said. “What I liked about it is that for a lot of parishes that had been divided before, it makes them whole again.”

Voting Age Population

District 2: 53.2% Black 36.8% White

District 5: 52.2% Black 42.7% White

Status: SB16 was deferred by the Republican-controlled Senate and Governmental Affairs Committee with a 6-3 vote along partisan lines. It will not advance to the full Senate.

Paul Braun is WRKF's Capitol Access reporter.