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The U.S. Supreme Court denied Louisiana’s appeal of a ruling that requires the state to redraw its congressional map to include a second majority-black district, moving the case forward in the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Louisiana Democratic Governor Jon Bel Edwards praised the high court’s decision, saying, “Louisiana can and should have a congressional map that represents our voting population, which is one-third Black. As I have consistently stated, this is about simple math, basic fairness, and the rule of law. I am confident we will have a fair map in the near future.”
The ruling comes after the court’s 5-4 decision earlier this month in Allen v. Milligan, which ruled that Alabama violated Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, ordering the state to draw a second majority-black district. The court’s order in Louisiana’s case suggests they expect Milligan to be applied by the lower court.
The order from the Supreme Court means that the lower court proceedings, which were halted when the Supreme Court allowed the map to be used in the 2022 elections, will restart. Before the 2022 stay order, the Fifth Circuit was preparing a review of U.S. District Judge Shelley Dick’s ruling that struck down Louisiana’s map.
Dick had been considering a remedial congressional plan after Louisiana’s Republican legislature refused to draw a second majority-black district when the stay was imposed. Now that the stay has been lifted, the Fifth Circuit will likely plan a new hearing on the legislature’s appeal, and Dick will schedule a conference hearing to draw the map before the 2024 elections.
With the GOP’s slim majority in the House of Representatives, the rulings in Alabama and Louisiana could help Democrats in their quest to retake the lower chamber.
Louisiana is currently represented in the House by five Republicans and one Democrat, but plaintiffs argued that because black voters make up one-third of Louisiana’s population, there should be two majority-black districts. Because black Americans traditionally vote overwhelmingly for Democrats, both Alabama, and Louisiana will most likely lose a Republican representative.
The Supreme Court previously allowed both maps to be used in the 2022 midterm elections, but now both states must have new districts drawn with additional majority-black districts before the 2024 elections take place.
Justice Roberts’ majority opinion in Milligan said Alabama’s districts were “not equally open” and rendered “a minority vote unequal to a vote by a nonminority voter.” Justice Thomas had called out the Milligan majority for “circular” reasoning and for defining their argument in racialized, rather than race-neutral, terms.
Some pundits believe the court’s decision in Milligan will likely reverse maps in South Carolina, North Carolina, and Georgia, creating a clear path for Democrats to retake the House. However, even Justice Roberts’ opinion admits that very few map challenges under Section 2 of the VRA are successful, so it remains to be seen whether other states’ maps will be struck down.