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Johnson to GOP Lawmakers in Louisiana: Ignore Court Order to Draw Black District

Black voters compose a majority in just one of the state’s six districts, despite making up a third of the population.

Speaker of the House Mike Johnson makes a statement alongside Mike Rogers in front of the West Wing at the White House on January 17, 2024, in Washington, D.C.

United States Speaker of the House Mike Johnson, a Republican from Louisiana, is urging GOP legislators in his home state to continue fighting against a federal court ruling that the state’s congressional maps are unconstitutional and violate the voting rights of Black residents.

That court order, which was upheld by an appellate court in November, requires the legislature to redraw its maps to create two Black majority districts within the state’s six districts. Currently, only one of the state’s districts has a Black majority.

Two Black districts would be more in line with the overall demographics of the state, as nearly a third of Louisianans are Black, according to census figures.

The case is similar to one that was litigated in Alabama, where state Republican lawmakers failed to win on appeals the right to continue disenfranchising Black voters. The U.S. Supreme Court rejected — twice — efforts by Alabama officials to overturn a federal judge’s calls for lawmakers to draw an additional majority Black district.

It’s highly unlikely that Republicans’ attempts to reject the federal and appellate courts’ rulings will play out differently in Louisiana. However, Johnson wants lawmakers to continue stonewalling the process of redrawing maps, likely because it will result in a district that will flip control of one seat from Republicans to Democrats.

On Tuesday, Johnson vented his frustrations with a map that would comply with judicial orders that was recently proposed by Louisiana lawmakers.

“We’ve just seen, and are very concerned with, the proposed Congressional map presented in the Louisiana Legislature,” Johnson wrote on X. “It remains my position that the existing map is constitutional and that the legal challenge to it should be tried on merits so the State has adequate opportunity to defend its merits.”

If the state fails in the judiciary to overturn the federal court order, one of the “multiple other map options that are legally compliant” should be considered, Johnson added. Of course, Johnson’s definition of “legally compliant” is circumspect, given that he believes the current maps are legal.

Johnson is likely concerned that a new Black majority district will narrow Republicans’ already slim majority in the U.S. House of Representatives, as Black voters tend to support Democrats over Republicans. Currently, Republicans can only afford to lose a net of four congressional seats in order to maintain their majority.

With two additional Black majority seats in Alabama and Louisiana — as well as court orders in other states finding maps drawn by Republican state legislatures unlawful — it’s possible that a dozen or more seats across six separate states could flip to Democrats in the 2024 elections. Republicans will have to make up the difference in races elsewhere, an incredibly lofty goal.

Political observers condemned Johnson’s efforts to continue disenfranchising Black voters by demanding the state legislature stand firm against federal court orders.

“Black voters in Louisiana deserve a fair say in who represents them in Washington,” the account for Let America Vote, a voting rights organization, wrote on X. “Mike Johnson, the architect of election denialism, thinks otherwise.”

Civil rights lawyer Leslie Proll, also writing on X, compared Johnson’s demands to those of southern lawmakers who refused to comply with Supreme Court rulings during the Civil Rights movement.

“Brown v. Board was decided 70 years ago & was followed by massive resistance to compliance w/federal court orders,” Proll wrote. “Yet here we are w/none other than Speaker of House urging LA legislators to defy court order to create another Black congressional district.”

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