Louisiana Legislature overrides Gov. Edwards’ veto of congressional map

By: and - March 31, 2022 6:29 pm

Gov. John Bel Edwards is flanked by the Legislative Black Caucus at a press conference March 30, 2022, after the Louisiana Legislature’s veto override session. (Piper Hutchinson/LSU Manship News Service). Courtesy of the Louisiana Illuminator.

The shape of Louisiana’s congressional districts will likely be decided in a federal court now that the Republican-led state Legislature has overridden Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards’ veto of a map that limits the state to one majority-Black district out of six in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Edwards and voters’ rights groups have said a second minority district needed to be added to account for the nearly 33% of Louisiana residents who are Black. A lawsuit challenging the GOP’s map in House Bill 1 was filed shortly after the veto session adjourned Wednesday afternoon.

“We have done simple math ad nauseam,” Rep. Royce Duplessis, D-New Orleans, said before the House voted to override Edwards’ veto. “One-third of six is two. This body continues to disregard simple math… We continue to disregard the fact that House Bill 1 is rife with politics.”

Lawmakers held a special redistricting session in February to create new political maps based on the 2020 Census. Although 40% of Louisiana residents identify as minorities, all of the maps created maintained the status quo in racial representation.

Edwards only vetoed two identical versions of congressional map but let proposals for the state school board, Public Service Commission and the Louisiana House and Senate become law. The Legislature could not agree on a new map for the Louisiana Supreme Court, which they are not required to redistrict by law like the other political bodies.

“I’m obviously disappointed. I’m certainly not surprised,” Edwards said about the veto override.

Republicans hold the majority in both chambers of the Legislature, but a supermajority of two-thirds is needed to override a veto. The GOP holds the needed 27 seats in the Senate but only has 68 in the House — two short of a supermajority.

The House override vote was 72-31. One Democrat, Rep. Francis Thompson, D-Delhi, bucked party ranks as expected and aligned with Republicans in support of the override. Joining him were the three independents in the House: Roy Daryl Adams of Jackson, Joe Marino of Gretna and Malinda White of Bogalusa.

The Senate vote was 27-11 along party lines, marking the third time in history the Legislature has overridden a gubernatorial veto since the Louisiana Constitution was ratified in 1974. The most recent occasion was in 1993 when Gov. Edwin Edwards was in office.

It took legislators just two hours to move House Bill 1 through both chambers. A second version of the congressional district map, Senate Bill 5, was shelved in favor of the House version, which Speaker Clay Schexnayder authored.

“For the first time in history, the Louisiana Legislature overrode a gubernatorial veto during a veto session. Today, the overwhelming will of the legislature was heard,” Schexnayder said in a statement. “House Bill 1 fulfills our constitutionally mandated duty to redistrict Congress. It also shows true legislative independence and a clear separation of power from the executive branch.”

Edwards implied with very little subtlety that a federal court will force Louisiana to redraw its congressional map, continuing a trend of federal oversight that has been in place since the Voting Rights Act was approved in 1965. This was the first redistricting session in which the state did not have to obtain pre-clearance of its proposed maps from the U.S. Department of Justice.

“Nobody should have to have a Voting Rights Act to tell them what is right and what is fair,” the governor said. “Nobody should have to have a court interpret and apply the Voting Rights Act to tell us that what we did was unfair.”

The original story was published earlier by the Louisiana Illuminator, an affiliate of the nonprofit States Newsroom, which includes the Florida Phoenix.

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Greg Larose
Greg Larose

Greg LaRose is the editor of the Louisiana Illuminator. He's covered news for more than 30 years in Louisiana. Before coming to the Illuminator, he was the chief investigative reporter for WDSU-TV in New Orleans. He previously led the government and politics team for The Times-Picayune | NOLA.com, and was editor in chief at New Orleans CityBusiness.

Wesley Muller
Wesley Muller

Wes Muller is a reporter for the Louisiana Illuminator. He has freelanced for the Times-Picayune and worked on staff at the Sun Herald in Biloxi, WAFB/CBS in Baton Rouge, and the Enterprise-Journal in McComb, Mississippi. He also taught English as an adjunct instructor at Baton Rouge Community College. Much of his journalism has involved reporting on First Amendment issues and coverage of municipal and state government. Muller is a New Orleans native, a Jesuit High School alumnus, a University of New Orleans alumnus and a veteran U.S. Army paratrooper.