top of page

Legislature overrides Edwards veto

State Sen. Cleo Fields said the dispute over the boundaries of the state’s six congressional districts are likely to be settled in court. (Photo by Piper Hutchinson/LSU Manship School News Service)

BATON ROUGE — The Louisiana Legislature voted Wednesday to override Gov. John Bel Edwards’ veto of congressional maps.

The House voted 72-31, with Republicans and the three Independents in favor. The Senate voted 27-11 in favor.

Despite the override, the matter likely will be determined in court. Several lawsuits relating to Louisiana’s redistricting efforts are pending already. Black legislators think the courts would rule in their favor.

“At the end of the day, I feel pretty certain that the courts will probably say we did it wrong,” state Sen. Cleo Fields, a Baton Rouge Democrat, said.

Only one Democrat, state Rep. Francis Thompson, of Delhi, voted to override the veto.

The override, which required a two-thirds vote in each chamber, is rare in Louisiana.

House Speaker Clay Schexnayder, R-Gonzalez, called it a key moment in efforts by the Republican-led Legislature to stand up to Edwards, a Democrat.

“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."

At a news conference, Edwards said he was disappointed, but not surprised, at the outcome.

"I slept good last night, and I'll sleep good tonight, because I know I did the right thing," Edwards said.

Fields, who is black and a former congressman, had been a proponent of drawing two majority black congressional districts.

Fields and others argued because a third of Louisiana’s population is black, two of the state’s six congressional districts should be majority black. Black lawmakers also argued a single minority district would violate Section Two of the federal Voting Rights Act, which forbids racial discrimination in voting practices.

Republican leaders contend the maps do not violate the Voting Rights Act.

During a special redistricting session in February, some Republicans said creating a second majority black district would lower the chances of a black candidate winning either seat if turnout among black voters remained lower than that of white voters.

The House moved quickly Wednesday to override the veto, with just one floor speech in opposition to the override. State Rep. Royce Duplessis, D-New Orleans, repeated many of the same arguments advocates pushed since the Legislature began taking public comments on redistricting in October.

The fact of the matter is this body continues to disregard simple math,” Duplessis said. “This body continues to disregard the shifting demographics of this state.”

Duplessis argued the votes violate the Voting Rights Act.

State Rep. John Stefanski, the Crowley Republican who headed the House committee in charge of redistricting, pointed to the Legislature’s constitutional responsibilities on redistricting.

“The Voting Rights Act is federal law, not Louisiana Constitution,” he said.

As the House vote was announced, many legislators broke into applause, letting out loud cheers.

Shortly after the House voted, the Senate picked up the discussion. Several black legislators took the podium to oppose the override.

Several senators spoke of their Christian faith, calling on their colleagues to consider God before making their vote.

“Have more confidence in knowing God has your back when you stand up and do the right thing,” state Sen. Katrina Jackson, D-Monroe, said. “We all have to give an account for every action and every deed that we've ever done. Each one of us. When that day comes, and God asks you, what would you say?”

State Sen. Joseph Bouie, a New Orleans Democrat, spoke about his experience of racial discrimination.

“As a young man I lived in separate but equal society,” Bouie said, sharing the story of a time he witnessed his pregnant mother be asked to move to the back of the bus.

Federal law “lays out a mechanism that says here's a process that ensures equitable fairness for all, but it is the responsibility of those who have been elected to ensure that we do what is right,” Bouie said.

Fields argued the state should still be subject to preclearance. Prior to 2013, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional, multiple jurisdictions with a history of racial discrimination in voting, including Louisiana, were required to have their political maps approved by the U.S. Justice Department.

This is the first redistricting cycle that Louisiana is not subject to those rules.

At the news conference, Edwards agreed the state should still be subject to preclearance, stating that it was “obvious” that it was necessary.

The governor speculated that the Legislature succeeded in its override this year, despite failing last year to override his vetoes on two other issues, because of the nature of redistricting.

“The single most partisan thing that happens, the bill that has the most self-interest at stake, is redistricting,” Edwards said, with each party and all the legislators seeking the best position for their own election prospects.


Featured Posts
Recent Posts
Search By Tags
Follow Us
  • Facebook Basic Square
  • YouTube Social  Icon
  • RSS Social Icon
bottom of page