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Questions Persist whether Louisiana’s New Congressional Map is Constitutional


Members of Louisiana's legislature met the January 30 deadline imposed by a federal court.

Louisiana lawmakers have approved a new congressional district map with a second majority-black district, during the special legislative session. In doing so, the state legislature met the January 30 deadline imposed by a federal court. The court ruled Louisiana’s current congressional map violates the Voting Rights Act. Right now, there is only one black U.S. Representative among Louisiana’s six congressional districts, despite the fact one-third of Louisiana citizens are black. The lone black congressman, Democrat Troy Carter, represents District 2. It includes most of New Orleans and stretches west and north to Baton Rouge. It has a black population of 53%. In the new map, District 6 will have a black population of 56% stretching from parts of Shreveport to Baton Rouge.
LSU Shreveport Political Science Professor Jeffrey Sadow served as an expert witness at the district court trial which determined the current congressional map was unconstitutional. That’s the court case that triggered the special legislative session to draw a new map. Professor Sadow contends Senate Bill 8 – which includes the new congressional map that lawmakers approved on Friday [January 29] - has several problems with it. “Worst of all, it looked uncomfortably close to the Fourth District in the remedial redistricting that occurred in 1992.”
The courts rejected the 1992 redistricting efforts. Sadow says the contorted shape of what was supposed to create a minority-majority district, looked like the letter “Z.” The failed map plan started in downtown Shreveport and created a 600 mile zig-zag pattern which passed through nearly half of Louisiana’s 64 parishes.
Sadow says the newly approved congressional map reminds him of 1992. “First of all, an arrangement where we have a district that is very close to one that was declared unconstitutional 30-years ago, in shape. And then to make matters worse, it’s violating these other principles of redistricting even worse than it was before.”
The other redistricting principles Sadow refers to are twofold. First, a congressional map should not carve up communities of interest into separate districts. Second, explains Sadow, is the principle of creating a compact district. That means avoiding strange shapes, drawn solely to ensure a black representative – because it may violate the rights of white voters. And because of those considerations, Sadow expects another legal challenge to the latest map. “Unlikely we’ll have an answer anytime soon, that whatever comes out of this is going to be whatever we finally end up with. Unlikely.” According to Sadow, the end of legal fights will take time. He estimates that a final, approved congressional map for Louisiana may not be in place until the elections in 2026.
Governor Jeff Landry had cautioned lawmakers at the beginning of the special session last week that if they couldn’t agree on a new map then a federal judge might do it for them. The legislature-approved map soon heads to the governor’s desk for his signature.

Originally from the Pacific Northwest, and a graduate of the University of Washington, Jeff began his on-air broadcasting career 33 years ago in the Black Hills of South Dakota as a general assignment reporter.