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Supreme Court unfreezes Louisiana redistricting case that could boost power of Black voters

View of the U.S. Supreme Court.
The high court lifted a Louisiana case that could force the state to redraw its congressional districts to boost Black voting power.
(Mariam Zuhaib / Associated Press)
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The Supreme Court on Monday lifted its hold on a Louisiana political remap case, increasing the likelihood that the Republican-dominated state will have to redraw boundary lines to create a second mostly Black congressional district.

The development revived Black Louisianans’ optimism of creating a second majority-Black district in the Deep South state. For more than a year there has been a legal battle over the GOP-drawn political boundaries, with opponents arguing that the map is unfair and discriminates against Black voters. The map, which was used in Louisiana’s November congressional election, has white majorities in five of six districts — despite Black people accounting for one-third of the state’s population.

White Republicans hold each of the five mostly white districts. A mostly Black district could deliver another congressional seat to Democrats.

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“I’m super excited,” Ashley Shelton, head of the Power Coalition for Equity and Justice, one of the groups challenging the maps, said following Monday’s news. “What this does is it puts us back on track to realize a second majority-minority district.”

The order follows the court’s rejection earlier in June of a congressional redistricting map in Alabama and unfreezes the Louisiana case, which had been on hold pending the decision in Alabama.

In both states, Black voters are a majority in just one congressional district. Lower courts had ruled that the maps raised concerns that Black voting power had been diluted, in violation of the landmark federal Voting Rights Act.

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The justices had allowed the state’s challenged map to be used in last year’s elections while they considered the Alabama case.

In Louisiana, U.S. District Judge Shelly Dick struck down the map in June 2022 for violating the Voting Rights Act, citing that “evidence of Louisiana’s long and ongoing history of voting-related discrimination weighs heavily in favor of Plaintiffs.” Dick ordered lawmakers to hold a special session to redesign the map and include a second majority-Black district. However lawmakers failed to meet their deadline and as a result Dick said she would enact a map of her choosing.

The Louisiana case had been appealed to the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans, when the high court put the case on hold. The justices said that appeal now could go forward in advance of next year’s congressional elections.

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U.S. Rep. Troy Carter, Louisiana’s only Democratic and Black congressman, applauded the Supreme Court for lifting its hold.

“This decision shows that in a healthy democracy fair and equitable representation matters, whether to the people of Louisiana or anywhere else in the world,” Carter tweeted.

Every 10 years, state lawmakers — armed with new U.S. Census Bureau information — redraw political boundaries for seats in the U.S. House, state Senate, state House, Board of Elementary and Secondary Education and the Public Service Commission. The process ultimately affects which political parties, viewpoints and people control the government bodies that write laws, set utility rates and create public school policies.

The redistricting process in Louisiana proved to be a tense political tug-of-war, with the Republican-dominated Legislature and Democrats, including Gov. John Bel Edwards, fighting over the boundaries since February 2022. Along with the legal battle, the debate over the map was marked by Edwards vetoing the boundaries and the Legislature overriding his veto — marking the first time in nearly three decades that lawmakers refused to accept a governor’s refusal of a bill they had passed.

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