Supreme Court Approves Louisiana’s Majority-Black District Map for 2024

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TL/DR –

The Supreme Court has ruled that Louisiana can use a newly redrawn congressional map for the 2024 elections, which includes a second district where the majority of voters are Black. The decision is seen as a victory for Democrats, who could gain an additional seat under the new lines. The district lines were redrawn following accusations that the original map violated Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act by diluting the voting strength of Black residents.


Supreme Court Approves Louisiana’s Congressional Map for 2024 Elections

On Wednesday, the Supreme Court ruled that Louisiana could employ a new congressional map including another majority-Black district for the 2024 elections. This decision gives Black voters a chance to elect their preferred candidate. The court approved separate requests, one from a group of Black voters and civil rights groups and the other from the state of Louisiana, overturning a ruling from a federal district court panel that had previously prevented the state from using the revised map in future elections.

The map was designed and approved by the GOP-led legislature after initial drafts were rejected by federal courts in January due to potential Voting Rights Act violations. Despite ideological divisions, the Supreme Court’s decision marks a win for Democrats, who are likely to gain another Louisiana seat with the revised congressional lines. This decision is the latest turn in an ongoing legal dispute over the state’s House district boundaries following the 2020 Census, which initiated the redistricting process.

Details of Louisiana’s Congressional Map

The first map proposed by the Republican state lawmakers in 2022 comprised of five majority-White and one majority-Black congressional districts. This was challenged by a group of Black voters and civil rights groups, arguing the map diluted the voting strength of Black residents in violation of the Voting Rights Act. Agreeing with the challengers, U.S. District Judge Shelly Dick issued an injunction, preventing the state from conducting any elections under the 2022-drawn lines, and encouraged state lawmakers to draft a new map with an additional majority-minority congressional district.

As part of the ongoing case proceedings, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Black voters who contested the congressional voting lines in Alabama, upholding a lower court decision that found that the map likely violated Section 2. Following this verdict, the Supreme Court cleared the path for Louisiana to redraw its congressional map as directed by Judge Dick. A federal appeals court later gave state lawmakers until Jan. 15, 2024, to adopt the new redistricting plan including the second majority-Black district.

Pic: Gov. Jeff Landry speaks during the start of the special session in the House Chamber on Monday, Jan. 15, 2024, in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

Controversy and Legal Challenges Surrounding the New Map

Republican Governor Jeff Landry, who began his term in January, called a special session of the state legislature to develop the new voting boundaries. The new map, featuring two majority-Black districts, was adopted that month. However, soon after its approval, a group of 12 non-African-American voters challenged it for racial gerrymandering in violation of the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause. They accused the state of creating the two majority-Black districts, disregarding traditional redistricting criteria.

Despite the criticism, supporters of the new plan, including Black voters, civil rights groups and Republican officials, argued that the lawmakers were trying to comply with Section 2 while achieving their political goals. Nevertheless, a three-judge district court panel delivered a divided decision last month, barring the most recent GOP-drawn map from being used in any election, citing it as an unconstitutional racial gerrymander.

In response, the civil rights groups, Black voters, and state Republican officials appealed to the Supreme Court to postpone the panel’s ruling and permit the use of the new map for upcoming elections.

Criticism and Defense of the New Map

Critics of the January map, a group of 12 voters, accused Louisiana of imposing a “brutal racial gerrymander” and termed the redistricting plan adopted earlier this year as “morally repugnant.” They filed to the Supreme Court citing comments from state lawmakers about the need to draw a second majority-minority district to remedy a likely Voting Rights Act violation.

They also rebuked the state for creating an imaginary deadline of May 15 for a congressional map to be in place, which the critics claimed was not grounded in any state law, rule or regulation. Their argument suggests that a stay from the Supreme Court, which would allow the use of the newly drawn district lines for the upcoming elections, could confuse voters and disrupt the 2024 primary.

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