Parameters of voting rights law questioned on required representation

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BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) — The trend continues on Capitol Hill of Republican cards passed and Democratic cards closed in committee. Among the arguments are legal questions about whether the cards being passed are in violation of the Voting Rights Act.

Much of the discussion during the redistricting session this week focused on the Voting Rights Act and there is much disagreement over what exactly it covers when drawing those lines. The key part of the law for lawmakers to consider is Section 2.

It prohibited practices and procedures that result in the denial or restriction of the right to vote of any citizen because of their race, color or membership of a minority language group. Senator Cleo Fields said the maps proposed by the Supreme Court must better represent the population under this law.

“We can do better, you know, because we’re better than that and I’m just asking for your final approval,” Senator Fields said.

Louisiana was previously under preclearance, which meant the Justice Department had to approve the cards to make sure they didn’t prevent minority voters from electing the candidate of their choice. It applied only to states that had a history of discrimination against minority populations. It was repealed in 2013 by the Supreme Court because the data used was over 40 years old and deemed outdated. But section 2 still applies.

“Section 2 is alive and well today,” said NAACP Legal Defense Fund attorney Victoria Wenger. “It really examines whether or not black voters have the opportunity to elect the candidate of their choice. So it’s essentially more encompassing than Section 5.”

There’s an argument that two majority-minority districts on the Supreme Court and congressional maps won’t produce a minority-choice candidate.

“Analysis of data from recent elections shows that, consistently, by huge margins, black voters would be able to elect the candidate of their choice,” Wegner said.

The NAACP Legal Defense Fund has repeatedly pointed to the law requiring only 50% of a voting age black population. They conducted research on the proposed new minority district and found that they were successful in electing a candidate of their choice. Senator Sharon Hewitt also pointed out that the law does not guarantee a minority candidate and that population being ⅓ black does not equate to ⅓ black candidates being elected.

In the end, only Hewitt’s Supreme Court card came out of the committee on Wednesday. This map will be forwarded to the House for final approval before being sent to the governor, unless it contains modifications.

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