Louisiana Redistricting: Democrats +1, Graves 0

by Jacob Rubashkin January 22, 2024 · 4:00 PM EST

House Democrats look set to pick up a seat in Louisiana following a court-ordered redistricting process, at the expense of a once-powerful ally of former Speaker Kevin McCarthy.

While not final, the map passed by the Louisiana state legislature and supported by GOP Gov. Jeff Landry last week would create a second majority-Black district in the Pelican State, and in the process dismantle the district currently held by Rep. Garret Graves, a Republican and McCarthy confidant (and Landry rival).

The map, which now awaits the governor’s signature, is the result of a legal challenge under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. Last year, the Supreme Court’s ruling in a similar case in Alabama set off a domino effect throughout the South, where states’ Black representation in Congress is often significantly out of proportion with their Black populations. 

The state’s overall population is one-third Black, but currently, just one of Louisiana’s six congressional districts is majority-Black: the 2nd District, represented by Democrat Troy Carter, which includes New Orleans and parts of Baton Rouge. 

Under the new map, Carter’s district remains a New Orleans-based majority-Black seat that Joe Biden would have carried by a hefty margin. But Graves’ district, which currently wraps around the 2nd District like a horseshoe with one end in Lake Pontchartrain and one in the Gulf of Mexico, is radically redrawn.

The new 6th District would encompass all of West Baton Rouge and much of the western half of East Baton Rouge, and extends northwest across the state all the way to Shreveport, near the Texas border. By voting age population, the new 6th is 54 percent Black and just 39 percent white, and Joe Biden would have easily carried it in the 2020 election, 59-39 percent. That makes it virtually impossible for Graves to win it this fall.

Graves has not divulged his plans moving forward but did suggest he may contest the new map’s legality — and indeed, the map bears a striking resemblance to the “backslash” district drawn by Louisiana in the 1990s that was struck down by the Supreme Court as an unconstitutional racial gerrymander. 

But for the time being, he faces a steep path to return to Congress. If he does not run in the new 6th District, he may challenge fellow GOP Rep. Julia Letlow in the neighboring 5th District, which would be an uphill battle given she already represents more of the newly-drawn seat.

The bottom line is that Graves’ district moves from Solid Republican to Likely Democratic, and Democrats, who need a net gain of just five seats to reclaim the majority, can add another seat to their column nine months before Election Day.