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Supreme Court clears way for redrawing of Louisiana congressional map to include 2nd majority-Black district

SCOTUS rules against Ala. in voting rights case
Supreme Court rules Alabama's congressional maps violate Voting Rights Act 02:52

Washington — The Supreme Court on Monday tossed out a bid by Louisiana Republicans seeking to reverse a lower court ruling that ordered it to redraw its congressional map, paving the way for new voting lines to be drawn to include a second majority-Black congressional district before the 2024 election.

In a brief unsigned order, the high court lifted a stay that had put in place nearly one year ago that placed on hold a federal district court ruling ordering Louisiana Republicans to redraw the state's congressional voting boundaries before the 2022 midterm elections and create a second district that gives Black voters the opportunity to elect their preferred candidate.

The case had been put on hold while the Supreme Court weighed a similar challenge to Alabama's congressional voting lines. In dissolving the stay issued last June, the high court's order said the move "will allow the matter to proceed before the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit for review in the ordinary course and in advance of the 2024 congressional elections in Louisiana."

Abha Khanna, a lawyer for one group of plaintiffs, said the Supreme Court's move in the Louisiana dispute affirmed the Voting Rights Act's power in preventing racially discriminatory redistricting.

"Black voters in Louisiana have suffered one election under a congressional map that unlawfully dilutes their political influence," she said in a statement. "Thankfully, Louisiana is now on track to add an additional minority opportunity district in time for 2024, ensuring that Black Louisianians are finally afforded fair representation in the state's congressional delegation."

In the Alabama case, the Supreme Court earlier this month invalidated the congressional map drawn by GOP state lawmakers there after the 2020 Census and found the redistricting plan for its seven House seats likely violated Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.

The high court, in an opinion authored by Chief Justice John Roberts, affirmed a lower court ruling that ordered Alabama officials to redraw its congressional map to include a second district that gave Black voters equal opportunity to elect their favored candidate, as required by the Voting Rights Act.

Like the dispute in Alabama, the Louisiana case stems from the state's redistricting process after the 2020 Census, during which state GOP lawmakers were tasked with drawing the voting lines for the state's six congressional districts.

The map approved by the Republican-led state legislature included a single majority-Black district, Louisiana's 2nd Congressional District. While Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards vetoed the proposed map because it failed to include two majority-Black congressional districts, state lawmakers overrode his veto in March 2022.

The lines were swiftly challenged by two groups of Black voters who argued the map violated Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act by diluting the power of Black voters, and claimed the law required the state to create a second majority-minority congressional district. The law prohibits any voting procedure that abridges or denies the right to vote "on account of race." A violation of Section 2 occurs when, "based on the totality of circumstances," members of a protected class "have less opportunity than other members of the electorate to participate in the political process and to elect representatives of their choice."

A federal district court sided with the voters, finding Louisiana's congressional map diluted the power of Black voters in violation of Section 2. U.S. District Judge Shelly Dick ordered Louisiana lawmakers to enact a remedial redistricting plan with a second majority-Black district ahead of the 2022 November election. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit declined to pause the district court's preliminary injunction and expedited the appeal.

Louisiana Republicans then asked the Supreme Court to intervene, and the court, over the dissents of now-retired Justice Stephen Breyer, and Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, granted their request to pause the district court's decision.

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