State Rep. Owen discusses new Congressional maps

By Emily Burleigh

State Rep. Charles Owen, R-Leesville, made his rounds in Beauregard and Vernon parishes to update constituents on the new Congressional maps that the Louisiana state legislature approved last week.

The new Congressional maps created a second majority-Black district by redrawing District 6, which is currently represented by Rep. Garret Graves. Owen attended the DeRidder and Leesville City Council meetings on Monday to discuss the change. At the DeRidder meeting he told the council the Legislature acted under the direction of the federal court to “reflect the potential for an African-American person to be elected in two of those as opposed to one of those right now.”

In 2022, the state Legislature and former Gov. John Bel Edwards struggled to come to an agreement while redrawing maps; Edwards vetoed a set of maps passed by the state Legislature, stating the proposed maps violated the Voting Rights Act because it included only one majority-Black district. The veto was overridden later that year by the state Legislature, but they were later ordered by a federal judge to create another majority-Black district.

The state was required to add the second majority-Black district by Jan. 30. On Monday, Louisiana Gov. Jeff Landry signed the bill approving the new Congressional maps, creating a second majority-Black district in the state.

District 6 now runs from Baton Rouge into Shreveport, up I-99 and through Alexandria and “looks like a bottle of ink was spilled,” Owen said.

“They make much less sense looking at it.”

Owen said that when redrawing a congressional map, many factors are considered, including compactness, communities of interest, race and continuity of representation. This is a task that proved to be difficult in 2022, he said.

“We really couldn’t figure out a way two years ago to draw a second district that would provide an opportunity for an African-American to win.”

Despite the maps’ appearance, Owen said it was paramount for the state to create the second majority-Black district to adhere to the law and ensure that the population is appropriately represented in State government.

“Our population is one-third Black. It makes sense to me that that should be done, honestly, because of our population demographic, but when you look at where people live, the only way to do that is to gerrymander a district.”

During the legislative special session, the Senate also considered closed primaries and the redistricting of the Supreme Court lines. Owen said that on Feb. 16, the legislature will enter another special session to discuss crime in the state.

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