Supreme Court allows Louisiana to use congressional map with new majority black district in 2024 elections

Washington — The Supreme Court said Wednesday it will allow Louisiana to use a congressional map for the 2024 elections that includes a second district where a majority of voters are Black, giving them the opportunity to choose their preferred candidate.

The judges accepted two separate requests – one from a group of black voters and civil rights groups and the other from 2nd from Louisiana State – To block a three-judge federal district court panel's ruling that had barred Louisiana from using the redrawn map in any upcoming elections.

The district lines were drawn and approved by the GOP-led Legislature in January after federal courts struck down the preliminary congressional map adopted in March 2022 as violating Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.

The court appeared divided along ideological lines. Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan said they would deny the request for a stay. Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson dissented, writing that he should have initiated a remedial process before the district court before considering whether emergency intervention was required.

The Supreme Court's decision is a victory for Democrats, who are likely to pick up another seat in Louisiana along the lines of the redrawn Congress. It is also the latest development in a long-running legal battle over the state's House district boundaries, which began after the 2020 census triggered the redistricting process.

Congressional map of Louisiana

The first map adopted by Republican state lawmakers in 2022 included five majority-white congressional districts and one majority-Black district, although about one-third of the state's population is Black. A group of black voters and civil rights groups challenged the legality of that plan, arguing that it reduced the voting power of black residents in violation of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.

US District Judge Shelley Dick agreed with the challengers and issued a restraining order Preventing the state from holding any elections under the 2022-ready lines. He then gave state lawmakers the opportunity to present a new map that included an additional majority-minority congressional district.

While the proceedings in the case continued, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of black voters who challenged the congressional voting lines in Alabama and upheld a lower court's decision that found the map potentially violated Section 2.

On the basis of that decision, the High Court cleared the way Proceeding for Louisiana to redraw its congressional maps in accordance with Dick's order. A federal appeals court later gave state lawmakers until January 15, 2024, to adopt the new redistricting plan, which also included the second majority-Black district.

Governor Jeff Landry, a Republican who took office in January, called a special session of the state Legislature to draw new voting boundaries, and a map with two majority-Black districts was adopted that month.

Gov. Jeff Landry speaks during the beginning of a special session in the House chamber on Monday, Jan. 15, 2024, in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

Michael Johnson/AP

According to court filings, the new congressional redistricting plan was intended to protect certain Republican incumbents, including House Speaker Mike Johnson, Majority Leader Steve Scalise and Representative Julia Letlow, at the expense of Republican Representative Garrett Graves. Graves, who represents the 6th Congressional District, had endorsed Landry's GOP opponent in the governor's race and did not publicly support Scalise's run for House speaker last year.

Under the map, reorganized District 6, drawn to create an additional majority-minority district, stretches from Shreveport in the northwest corner of Louisiana to Baton Rouge in the southeast. It connects the predominantly black populations of Shreveport, Alexandria, Lafayette, and Baton Rouge.

Shortly after the Governor signed the new map, a group of 12 voters who described themselves as “non-African-Americans” denounced it as a racial gerrymander in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment. I challenged. He claimed that the state drew its six congressional districts primarily along the lines of race and created two majority-Black districts “without regard to any traditional redistricting criteria.”

But those who support the new redistricting plan, including Black voters and civil rights groups challenging the preliminary 2022 maps and Republican officials, have argued that lawmakers sought to comply with Section 2 — as That's necessary as per Dick's orders – to accomplish his political goals while also working.

Still, a three-judge district court panel issued a split decision last month that blocked the latest GOP-drawn congressional map from being used in any elections after finding it to be an unconstitutional racial gerrymander.

The two justices in the majority, Judges David Joseph and Robert Summerhays, agreed that race was the dominant factor in the state's decision-making when drawing the boundaries of District 6, another majority black district. He declined to consider whether it was possible to draw a second majority-black district that would comply with the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment, but added that “Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act prohibits the traditional district There is no need for primacy of race in drawing congressional districts at the sacrifice of principles.”

Civil rights groups, black voters and state Republican officials asked the Supreme Court to block the panel's decision and allow the new map to be used for upcoming elections. While lower court judges had set an early June deadline for redrawing voting lines, the state argued that it needed to know by May 15 which map to use in the November congressional elections.

In their bid for emergency relief from the judges, voters and civil rights organizations said the panel's split decision “deprives the Legislature of the flexibility it needs to fix identified VRA violations in accordance with its policy priorities.” He said it would be “incongruous” if an additional majority-minority district were intentionally created to address violations of Section 2, which permitted racial gerrymandering.

“In the district court's view, and contrary to this Court's precedents, once the legislature concludes that it must consider race in order to comply with the VRA, any other considerations entering its redistricting calculus are necessarily Were subjected to race. This is a reversible error,” the advocate said for voters and groups.

In their request for emergency relief, Louisiana officials lamented that, just days before Secretary of State Nancy Landry was to begin implementing congressional maps for the 2024 elections, “Louisiana has no congressional maps. “

“Louisiana's impossible situation in this redistricting cycle would be laughable if it were not so dire,” he wrote in his filing to the judges.

Republican state officials warned that upcoming contests are at risk of being rigged amid competing court orders that affect Voting Rights Act rulings, going against the panel's April decision to gerrymander a second majority-black district. required, which found that doing so violated the Equal Protection Clause.

He wrote, “This absurd situation is an insult to Louisiana, its voters, and democracy. The madness must end.”

But the group of 12 voters challenging the January map accused Louisiana of imposing “brutal racial discrimination” on them and millions of other voters and called the redistricting plan adopted earlier this year “morally repugnant.”

“Clear and simple, the legislature considered caste as the first criterion, and it was the criterion that could not be compromised,” he said in the Supreme Court, citing comments of state lawmakers about the need to attract a second majority. minority district to address potential Voting Rights Act violations, it wrote in a filing.

They also accused the state of setting a May 15 deadline to turn over the congressional map, which lawyers said was not based on state law, rule or regulation.

“The state has most of its interest in avoiding chaos and protecting the electoral process. But in reality, allowing SB8 to go into effect, despite the district court's final order determining that it is unconstitutional, only harms the integrity of the electoral Would erode confidence in the process,” wrote lawyers for the 12 voters challenging the January map.

He said the Supreme Court's block, which would allow newly drawn district lines to be used for upcoming elections, risks voter confusion and disruption for the 2024 primary election.

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