Jan 22, 2024 - Politics

With special session's end, Louisiana to get new congressional map and close some primaries

Illustration of the Louisiana State Capitol building with lines radiating from it.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Louisiana will get a new congressional map and close some state primaries after Gov. Jeff Landry signs two bills the state legislature sent to his desk when its special session ended Friday.

Why it matters: The map change could result in Louisiana sending a second Democrat to the U.S. House of Representatives.

  • And the final version of the primary bill represents significant compromises on what had been a key priority for Landry heading into last week's special legislative session.

What happened: Legislators adjourned Friday after approving a makeover for the 6th Congressional District, drawing it as a backslash through the middle of the state.

  • State Sen. Glen Womack, who authored the bill, had said he aimed to protect districts for Rep. Steve Scalise, Rep. Julia Letlow and Rep. Mike Johnson.
  • In turn, the new map endangers Rep. Garret Graves, whose district becomes majority Black.

Meanwhile: A watered-down version of the Landry-backed proposal to scrap Louisiana's jungle primary system also heads to his desk.

  • In the version of the Rep. Julie Emerson-sponsored bill that legislators approved Friday, the state will transition to closed primaries for its congressional, state Supreme Court, Board of Secondary and Elementary Education, and Public Service Commission primaries.
  • Candidates will need more than 50% of a primary vote to win, so primary runoffs are possible in the new structure.
  • Also, in an amendment worked out between Landry and U.S. Sen. John Kennedy, unaffiliated voters will be allowed to participate in the primary of their choice. Independent voters will not.
  • None of the primary changes take effect until 2026.

Worth noting: Legislators had taken up efforts to also redraw the state's Supreme Court districts, but those measures were incomplete by the time session ended.

What he's saying: "We started the process of necessary structural change to our election system, allowing for a cleaner and simpler final ballot," Landry said, "and we took the pen out of the hand of a non-elected judge and placed it in the hands of the people."

What's next: Legislators return to Baton Rouge for the regular legislative session March 11.

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