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OneRouge Friday Community Check-In (Week 93)

Since the outbreak of COVID-19 in EBR, The Walls Project has been hosting weekly video calls with leaders of nonprofits, foundations, city government, and local businesses from a

cross the parish. The intention of these weekly community check-ins is to share information and resources to help the Baton Rouge community respond and recover from the pandemic. Weekly topics range from access to basic needs such as food, medical care, and safety to thought-leaders' insights on equitable opportunities for youth enrichment, nonprofit financial solvency, surge in unemployment, and the disproportionate impact on impoverished neighborhoods in regards to accessing fresh food.



Meeting Notes Prepared by Samantha Morgan (Walls Project)

Kaitlyn Joshua (Community Organizer, Power Coalition)

  • I organize communities across the state. The Power Coalition has been part of the fight since the census. Fast forward a year and a half later, we’ve partnered with organizations to bring those voices together.

  • Advocacy Day - 250 people to the capitol. Gave them the tools to give that testimony. Constantly bringing folks of color to the capitol and young people. A lot of legislators said that made an impact. In this moment, Power Coalition is running several targeting campaigns where we know the house map is not ideal and we’re hoping it's vetoed by John Bel and the Senate as well and the congressional map we hope he vetoes as well.

  • Additionally we have a campaign where we’re calling on John Bel to veto several maps to encourage him to do the right thing. While we are hopeful he vetoed the congressional, we’re not sure about the house and senate maps. We’re not relying on the legislators to do the right thing. We’re calling on the governor to take that initiative. We know several of those maps will end up in litigation.

  • I do want to talk about the impact on the community. My fear is that we brought all these folks, we engaged all these folks and they’re seeing in real time that it’s not making an impact and I fear they will believe their voice does not matter.

Peter Robins-Brown (Executive Director, Louisiana Progress)

  • It looks like this morning or this afternoon all these maps will get final approval, but they will probably all go to the governor’s desk today. We’re looking at the congressional maps, BESE, and the public service commission. There was a sixth map they could have drawn. On those other five, on the public service and BESE, I would expect those to be signed off on by the governor. There’s not as strong of a litigation path on that. Although that’s not a given on BESE. The focus is really on the congressional, senate and house maps. If he overrides those vetoes, will that hold up? That’s what we’re looking at here.

  • Either way, I would say those three will end up in the courts. In Alabama there was a terrible ruling out of Arkansas. All sorts of states are in various stages of section 2 litigation. Bringing cases against the new maps. I think it’s clear the new maps passed today disenfranchise all voters. It’s going to be predetermined which political party wins. There’s going to be very little chance of feeling like if you vote this way you’ll have a significant impact. On election day, we’re all as powerful as the most powerful person in the state. I don’t want to diminish the power to vote, but it’s frustrating to say the least when black and brown communities across the state are being disenfranchised. By staying at the same level we’re actually diminishing because the numbers have been increasing.

  • If you’ve been following the Advocate, they’ve been covering the backroom dealings. That further increases or makes apparent why the governor should veto these maps. They’ll be litigated either way. That’s where we as citizens can do something. We can pressure the governor. There were so many people who turned out. There is a sense of frustration and deflation to see that that outreach wasn’t heard when you see the outcome. When it comes to the litigation side that will matter. That’s the record that the lawyers and the judges use.

  • The reason Barry Ivey put in a state supreme court map that he drew himself, because those black voters matter advocates who showed up and said they want to leave the state, he told me 2 days prior that he wasn’t going to put in any maps, but after that he went home and stayed up until 4 in the morning working on this. That was the biggest story in this redistricting session. That was a direct result of people showing up and speaking their truth.

Davante Lewis (Policy Analyst, Louisiana Budget Project)

  • Today is probably the conclusion, technically they can go to Sunday but it seems everyone has Mardi Gras balls and parades, so they want to be done today. These maps are just unacceptable. We are the second blackest state in the country and there’s not a single additional majority-minority seat on any of our maps, and that’s a significant problem. Even though we haven’t seen a final map, both chambers have been on record saying they are okay with it. What’s next is the vetoes.

  • The court has two tracks. If the governor does take our call and veto the map, the legislature can come back and try to override the veto. If that veto is sustained, meaning the legislature does not muster the 2/3rds votes needed to override the veto, and they do not pass a new map, you can file an injunction for the courts to file a new map. So the courts have two tracks they can play.

  • One is that the legislature and the governor can never come to an agreement, or a law never takes effect, which means the middle district, which has two Obama appointees out of three would be in charge of actually drawing the maps, which I don’t think anybody in the legislature actually wants that, because all the considerations about term limits and assets in a district really don’t apply.

  • The second is if the governor does veto then we would go to court and file under a Section 2 violation under the voting rights act.

  • What Section 2 basically says, if you have the ability to draw more minority districts then you will be reviewed. The voting rights act doesn’t require that there was a will to disenfranchise, it only has to show that the results create disenfranchisement and underrepresentation. If I can prove a way that there was to provide more minority-majority districts and the state chose not to, then they are in violation.

  • In Alabama, the supreme court paused Alabama’s ruling. The supreme court did not rule on the merits of the voting rights act or whether the complaint was warranted. What the Supreme Court did was file an injunction that Alabama would not have to redraw their maps until that case has ended. So they paused a decision on the case.

  • But what the Supreme Court did, which is really convoluted is Justice Kavanaugh used the Purcell doctrine, which is established by the court and says that election laws cannot be changed too close to an election. And even though Alabama’s primaries are four months out and the general election for congress is nine months out, the Supreme Court ruled that’s too close to an election to redraw lines, so the case is now backed into the district court where they will hear the merits and then move it back up to the court.

  • Peter also mentioned what we saw out of Arkansas. This is a very wild case. It’s a Trump appointed judge, who basically threw out all the precedence that we’ve seen from lawyers and said that nobody but the department of justice can bring a voting rights allegation. So as an individual people, as organizations, as a legislator, I can’t say my voting rights have been violated. Only the department of justice can say I have violated the voting rights, which is very convoluted. This is a part of a process we have seen in a case in Arizona. We’re concerned the Supreme Court is going to pick a case that is not as clear cut as Louisiana. If you listen to the NAACP legal defense fund, they say there is no clearer case of a section 2 violation than Louisiana, it’s a slam dunk case. The challenge could be that the Supreme Court takes a smaller case that’s not a slam dunk, use it on the merit and rule on it and set the bar higher.

  • Unlike other states, Louisiana our legislative elections are in an off-year, they’re in 2023, which means the Supreme Court ruling on the legislative maps on BESE, the house and the Senate, the Purcell doctrine does not apply - we are a year and nine months out. I think those maps have a different path.

  • Entering this process, a lot of our members, really were not organized, really were not motivated, but watching these students and these people asking to be represented, there was an energy bolt that I haven’t seen in years. Even though it looks daunting, because some of our allies that a month or two months ago I would have told you they would have never done. The pressure is working. It is motivating and energizing those who stand with us.


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