Published: Feb. 4, 2022
By: Lura Stabiler, LSU Manship School News Service
BATON ROUGE — A Republican Senate leader and a Democratic senator on Thursday debated the importance of adding a second majority-minority congressional district, giving different interpretations of the federal Voting Rights Act to justify their positions.
The back-and-forth came on the third day of the special redistricting session in which senators present their redistricting maps for the state’s six congressional districts.
Sen. Sharon Hewitt, R-Slidell and the chairwoman of the Senate and Governmental Affairs Committee, presented a map, as did Sen. Cleo Fields, D-Baton Rouge, who was accompanied by NAACP Legal Defense Fund representatives Jared Evans and Michael Pernick.
It was clear even before the start of the session that Black legislators wanted to make it likely for Black residents to elect two congressmen, while Republicans wanted to preserve the five seats that they hold.
Political considerations will play a major role in the process, but the two sides focused Thursday on how they were each grouping voters to achieve their goals. The committee may vote on the plans Friday.
On three different occasions during the hearing, Hewitt emphasized her interpretation of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 in disputing the idea that there should be two districts with Black voters in the majority since Blacks make up about a third of the state’s population in the 2020 Census.
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