The Supreme Court reinstated a Republican-drawn map of Louisiana's six U.S. House of Representatives districts that were previously blocked by a judge who found that it possibly violates the Voting Rights Act, reports Reuters. The ruling is seen as a defeat for Democrats seeking to remain in control of Congress in the upcoming elections in November.
On Tuesday, the justices granted a request by the Louisiana's Secretary of State to place an injunction on U.S. District Judge Shelly Dick's decision requiring a newly drawn map that includes a "second district where Black voters represent the majority of voters rather than just one in the version adopted by the Republican-led state legislature.”
The Court’s brief order, which included no reasoning, blocked the judge’s ruling and granted a petition seeking review in the case. The Louisiana case will be on hold as the court decides on a similar one from Alabama in its next term.
Nicholas O. Stephanopoulos, a law professor at Harvard, was critical of the court’s process in making their ruling.
"It’s ridiculous that we don’t know why the court is making rulings like this,” he said.
The state has six congressional districts.
Currently, about a third of Louisiana's population is Black. Per the 2020 census, the state’s Black population grew by 3.8 percent in the preceding decade, while the white population declined by 6.3 percent.
After the census, the Republican-controlled State Legislature drew a congressional map with only one district where Black voters made up a majority. Gov. John Bel Edwards of Louisiana, a Democrat, vetoed the map back in March, describing it as “simply not fair to the people of Louisiana.” Eventually, the Legislature overrode the governor’s veto.
Several lawsuits were filed by Black voters and activist groups, and the Federal District Court in Baton Rouge found that the map violated the Voting Rights Act by placing Black voters into “a single district and then splitting the remaining ones among the five other districts.” Judge Shelby Dick, ordered the Legislature to produce a revised map.
“If the Legislature is unable to pass a remedial plan by that date, the Court will issue additional orders to enact a remedial plan compliant with the laws and Constitution of the United States,” the judge wrote.
U.S. District Judge Shelly Dick’s 150-page ruling was immediately appealed by State officials.
On June 12, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals of New Orleans declined to reinstate the Republican-drawn Louisiana districts, calling evidence presented by Black voters who fought against the map "stronger" than the evidence presented in defense of the map.
In previous decisions, the Supreme Court drastically weakened Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which had required federal approval before any changes to state and local voting laws in parts of the country with a history of voter suppression based on racism. Also, it cut back on Section 2 of the law, effectively limiting the ability of minority groups to challenge voting restrictions.
The Louisiana case is among several legal challenges across the country over the enactment of electoral districts. Every ten years, congressional maps are redrawn to reflect the changes as measured by a national census.
The last census was conducted in 2020.