Elections for Louisiana Republicans' governing body are on hold as the party objects to a 1980s-era law that would have it dramatically rework its central committee districts and force some current members to run against one another.
Democrats started signing up Wednesday to run for their governing body's seats, but the registration period for Republican State Central Committee seats is stalled under order from a Louisiana appeals court while the GOP lawsuit against the district plan awaits trial.
It's unclear when the Republican elections will be held, even as the governing body members' terms expire in April. The majority-GOP Louisiana Legislature could try to rewrite the law, but the legislative session doesn't begin until March.
"A trial has been scheduled in this matter in April, but we are working diligently with the parties involved to expedite a final resolution before then," state GOP Chairman Louis Gurvich wrote in a party email sent Wednesday.
The Republican and Democratic central committees manage party activities, select state party leadership and determine delegates to the national party conventions, among other things. Members are elected to four-year terms on the same ballot as the state's presidential primary.
The state Republican Party is objecting to a 1987 law that requires any party with more than 30% of Louisiana's registered voters to have a 210-member central committee with two members from each state House district, one male and one female.
The law had applied only to the Democrats' central committee since it was written, as Democrats were the dominant party in the state for decades. But in 2019, Louisiana's GOP topped the 30% voter registration benchmark, triggering the law to apply to Republicans' governing body as well.
The Republican Party and three of its female central committee members, including state Rep. Beryl Amedee of Houma, filed a lawsuit in November asking the courts to bar the state from enforcing the central committee district requirements for the GOP. The lawsuit argues that the requirements violate constitutional protections for free speech and free association.
Instead, Republicans want to use a 230-member plan that the party drew up in 2019 based on state Senate districts and without designated seats for male and female members.
Republicans say the 1987 law was written by Democrats to follow national Democratic policy. Democrats accuse the GOP of objecting to the law because they don't want to give women an equal voice on the state central committee.
Though a state district judge denied the GOP's request to stall central committee elections, the 1st Circuit Court of Appeal in Baton Rouge stepped in Monday and ordered a halt to the election plans until the trial is held. So, when qualifying for Louisiana's April 4 election began Wednesday, candidates could register for seats for the Democratic State Central Committee but not for the GOP's central committee.