According to his most recent comments, Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards and his party will go all in, to the exclusion of anything else, on cultivating a court case to create two majority-minority congressional districts in Louisiana, thereby permitting Republicans to reapportion everything else to their liking and giving the state a congressional map with only one M/M district for fall elections.
Earlier this week, in a news conference Edwards stated that, while his actions always are contingent on the exact wording of bills, he really thought the GOP-controlled Legislature should pursue a two M/M district scheme – almost certainly allowing his minority party to pick up a seat – and for that bill and others dealing with House, Senate, Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, Public Service Commission, and Supreme Court, he would issue potential vetoes weighing the support behind them thus the chances of a successful override. While Republicans have more than a supermajority in the Senate, they fall two votes shy in the House although to stop an override if House Republicans mirror the solidarity of their Senate counterparts Democrats then would need to capture at least two of three votes from no party representatives.
With a state black population of just about a third, Democrats have argued that proportion should be reflected in the six congressional seats, 39 state Senate seats, 105 House seats, 8 elected BESE seats, and 7 Supreme Court seats. Republicans have advanced plans for one M/M district for Congress, 11 for the Senate, 29 for the House, 2 for BESE, and 1 for the Court. Both the House and Senate would see an increase of one M/M seat over present boundaries.
Quoting the standard, Edwards reinforces the notion that he will veto the looming GOP plan for one M/M congressional district. That party’s Senate supermajority assures all their measures will be veto-proof in that chamber, and the congressional plan further along in the process attracted just enough votes in the House to override potentially there.
That outcome actually understated support because two Republicans, knowing it would pass, cast protest votes against it over boundaries concerning their own districts, but they certainly would defend it if vetoed. The extra votes came from Democrat state Reps. Travis Johnson and Francis Thompson, and from no party state Reps. Malinda White (who recently switched from being a Democrat) and Joe Marino. No party state Rep. Roy Daryl Adams, who crossed Speaker Clay Schexnayder on an override vote last summer and whose district under the House remap plan will not surprisingly become much less favorable for him to win, voted against.
Democrats, in Louisiana and nationally, know through democratic means they can at best create a stalemate with an Edwards veto and less than 70 House votes to override. That would invite action by the federal judiciary, but in a related Alabama case the Supreme Court has signaled it won’t permit altering challenged district lines enacted or existing prior to reapportionment before fall elections, because this would disrupt the process too much. Still, Democrats cling to the idea that later this year or next the Court would rule that the use of criteria other than race in a Louisiana single M/M map didn’t provide enough justification to overcome use of race as the dominant factor in drawing two M/M boundaries, a quality which all such plans they presented have that at present the Court would rule unconstitutional.
Buttressing this attempt to get the Court to change its standard would be a veto attempt, even if overriden. Better still, an unsuccessful override would add even more ammunition to a long shot case where every bit helps, and with the margin where it is Edwards has hope he can peel off three of the four non-GOP votes needed. And, Edwards faces pressure to signal his virtue to black Democrat elites and voters by vetoing a one M/M plan because of scandal involving Edwards’ role in insufficient pursuit of justice in the death of black motorist Ronald Greene. So, he has much incentive to veto a single M/M map.
However, by his standard not so much anything else. Democrats don’t dispute a single M/M PSC map, and on House and PSC bills that advanced past the House these drew 82 (12 Democrats and two no party) and 73 (3 Democrats and all no party, with one GOP representative absent) votes. Neither the Senate nor Court bills have hit the House floor (the House didn’t pass out any Court bill), but if they get numbers like those already seen, needing to flip five to 13 votes it would be tough for Edwards to block an override. And, unlike in the case of Congress, failure to enact these plans ultimately would end up with the state Supreme Court, with a GOP majority likely to rule in favor of Republican plans, so Edwards won’t want to waste political capital on causes with even less hope than a two M/M Congress map.
This explains why House black Democrats, in stumping for amendments to add an additional M/M seat to their chamber’s plan and when defeated in opposing it, spoke in such apocalyptic terms as if in accepting the 29-seat M/M plan was tantamount to turning the clock back to 1860. They levied nonsensical charges of voter suppression – the approved plan had nothing to do with the right to vote – and that only M/M districts ensured black voters could elect the candidate of their choice – despite that at present two M/M House districts elected white representatives and a non-M/M Senate district elected a black senator, with this overwrought and sensationalist rhetoric prompted by frustration over the sure knowledge the bill’s contents were the districts going forward for the next decade.
So, look for Edwards to put all his eggs in one basket. He’ll be unlikely to veto anything but the congressional bill, which he most certainly will do. Regardless of the override outcome, it will end up in litigation, Louisiana will conduct its 2022 congressional elections with a one M/M map, and almost certainly will do so th