Racial Gerrymandering Lawsuit in Louisiana


BATON ROUGE (CN) - Louisiana packed African Americans into a single, racially gerrymandered congressional district that stretches from below New Orleans to above Baton Rouge, voters claim in court.
     Maytee Buckley et al., residents of District 2, sued the state in Federal Court.
     Louisiana had to redraw its congressional districts in 2011, after its slow population growth from 2000 to 2010 reduced its U.S. House delegation from seven members to six.
     "Until recently, Louisiana was deemed a covered jurisdiction under the Voting Rights Act of 1965," the lawsuit states. "Accordingly, its congressional maps were subject to preclearance by the federal government.
     "In the name of avoiding retrogression, Louisiana has used Section 5 as a justification to racially gerrymander congressional districts, specifically by packing African-American voters into Congressional District 2 and thereby diminishing their influence in surrounding districts.
     "On June 25, 2013, in Shelby County v. Holder, the United States Supreme Court held that the coverage formula provided in Section 4(b) of the Voting Rights Act is unconstitutional. As a result, Louisiana is no longer a covered jurisdiction for purposes of Section 5.
     "Louisiana can no longer seek refuge in Section 5 as an excuse to racially gerrymander Congressional District 2. Drawn with race as its predominant purpose, this district cannot pass constitutional muster." (Citations omitted).
     Interestingly, the newly drawn district looks something like a mutant salamander. The term gerrymander comes from an 1812 political cartoon slamming Massachusetts Gov. Elbridge Gerry for packing voters into strangely configured districts.
     The plaintiffs claim Congressional District 2, which includes parts of New Orleans and western and northern neighborhoods of Baton Rouge, violates redistricting guidelines and does not respect political and geographical boundaries.
     The district connects western New Orleans to eastern and northern Baton Rouge, leaving out parts of both cities. It includes parts of 10 parishes and portions of four congressional districts that were drawn in 2001, according to the complaint.
     "Congressional District 2's tortured shape further contorts the districts around it," the complaint states. "Congressional District 6 surrounds Congressional District 2 on three sides, appearing to shoot Congressional District 2 out of its cragged jaws like a crooked tongue."
     The voters claim Louisiana cherry-picked African-American neighborhoods in New Orleans and Baton Rouge and packed them into one district.
     They say the state used federal preclearance requirements, which no longer apply, as a justification to concentrate African Americans into the bizarrely shaped district.
     They seek an injunction and want the district declared unconstitutional.
     They are represented by Christopher Whittington.
     A spokesperson for the Secretary of State's office declined to comment.