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Supreme Court halts redraw of Louisiana congressional map

A congressional map that was found to likely discriminate against Black voters will now be used while the high court decides a similar case from Alabama.

WASHINGTON (CN) — In an apparent 6-3 vote on Tuesday, the Supreme Court threw out a lower court order requiring Louisiana to create a second majority-Black congressional district. 

The high court’s order will reinstate a Republican-drawn map that was blocked by a district court for violating the Voting Rights Act and diluting the votes of Black voters. Taking up the dispute, the justices will hold the case for their ruling in a similar case in Alabama that they agreed to hear next term. The majority offered no explanation for the decision. 

The three Democrat-appointed justices dissented. 

Redistricting disputes have persisted across the country following the 2020 census. Voting rights experts have worried that the high court’s interest in these cases could lead to further deterioration of the Voting Rights Act. 

Louisiana’s Legislature was presented with a multitude of options following the 2020 census on ways to better represent Black voters in the state — including granting Black voters the majority in two districts. The 2020 census found that Black citizens represent about 31.2% of the voting-age population in Louisiana. However, the Republican-led Legislature passed bills adopting only a single majority-Black district and five with large white majorities. The bills were vetoed by Democratic Governor Jon Bel Edwards for violating the Voting Rights Act but lawmakers overrode his veto.  

Challenging the map, voters and civil rights groups sued the state. In a 152-page ruling earlier this month, a district court granted a preliminary injunction blocking the map from being used because it likely violated Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. 

Louisiana Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin, a Republican, asked the district court and the Fifth Circuit to block the ruling pending appeal. The motion was denied. Ardoin then appealed to the Supreme Court justices for emergency relief. 

Louisiana Solicitor General Elizabeth Murrill told the high court that the district court disregarded decades of precedent by ordering a second majority-minority district to be drawn. 

“Louisiana’s congressional boundaries cannot be drawn to create two majority-minority districts without ‘segregat[ing] the races for purposes of voting,’” Murrill wrote in Ardoin’s application. “Nonetheless, the district court issued a preliminary injunction ordering the Louisiana Legislature to add a second district by June 20, 2022. By fixing race as the sole ‘non-negotiable’ district-drawing variable, the district court disregarded decades of this Court’s precedents, which ‘mak[e] clear that proportionality is never dispositive.’” 

Stuart Naifeh, an attorney with the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund representing the civil rights groups, urged the justices not to take the “extraordinary” step of taking up the case before the merits of the case were decided by the lower courts. 

“Defendants have had the opportunity to litigate those issues before the district court and the Fifth Circuit, and their appeal to the Court of Appeals on the merits will be argued in little more than two weeks,” Naifeh wrote in an opposition brief. “No compelling national interest requires this Court to intervene in the appellate process at this early juncture.” 

The high court has scheduled oral arguments in the Alabama case for Oct. 4. 

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