The Supreme Court allowed Louisiana to use a Republican-drawn congressional map this fall that a federal district judge said would probably diminish the electoral power of the state’s black voters. This could potentially help pave the path for more ‘red wave’ victories in the future.
The judges granted a request by the state’s Republican secretary of state to suspend U.S. District Judge Shelly Dick’s order requiring the state to create a second district where African-Americans would have the opportunity to elect a candidate of their choice. A court of appeals upheld the district court’s decision, but the state legislature declined to redraw the map.
On June 28th, the Supreme Court majority did not provide a reason to grant the state’s request, as is standard in emergency orders. But it noted that the court agreed for the term that begins in October to an Alabama case which raises similar issues about a state’s obligation to create what can be called majority-minority districts under the Voting Rights Act.
The three liberal judges on the court – Stephen G. Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan – said they would have rejected the state’s request. That would also have meant new districts before the fall elections.
Louisiana has six members of Congress. But just one of the districts is majority black, even though an estimated one-third of the state’s voters are African-American. The Democratic governor of the state, John Bel Edwards, vetoed the map, but his Republican-led legislature overruled the action.
In a previous separate case in February, the Supreme Court overturned a lower court order directing Alabama to redraw its congressional map to accommodate the growth of black voters there. It was calling for a second congressional district favorable to black candidates.
Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh, who was in the majority to block the lower court’s order, stated that the map drawn by the legislature should remain in place and that the court would take the case to decide the merits of the dispute. That involves what Republicans say is a conflict between the requirements of the Voting Rights Act and the Equal Protection Clause’s guarantee that race does not play too large a role in government decisions.
“The underlying question here is whether a second majority-minority congressional district (out of seven total districts in Alabama) is required by the Voting Rights Act and not prohibited by the Equal Protection Clause,” Kavanaugh wrote. “But the Court’s case law in this area is notoriously unclear and confusing.”
The Alabama case, Merrill v. Milligan, is one of several that the court will consider in October. June 28th’s order stated that the Louisiana case would be held until the Alabama case is decided.
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