The Louisiana Congressional Map was blocked by federal judges

The Washington Post

A newly drawn congressional map in Louisiana was struck down on Tuesday by a panel of federal judges who found that the new boundaries, which form a second majority Black district in the state, amounted to an “impermissible racial gerrymander” that violated the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution.
Critics warned that the decision could have broader implications on voting rights.
But the new maps went before another panel of federal judges after a group of residents scattered across the new congressional district who describe themselves as “non-African American” voters challenged the maps.
Louisiana was obligated to redraw congressional districts after the 2020 census to take into account population changes.
The census had found that the Black population in the state had increased by 3.8 percent over the past decade, meaning that roughly a third of the overall population was Black.
But in the map drawn by the Republican-controlled Legislature, only one of the six congressional districts had a majority Black population.
In June 2022, a federal judge found that the map had been racially gerrymandered and illegally weakened the electoral power of Black voters.
The ruling reaffirmed the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which had been diminished over the years by the court’s conservative majority.

NEUTRAL

A group of federal judges invalidated a newly created congressional map in Louisiana on Tuesday, citing the Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution as being violated by the new boundaries, which create a second majority Black district in the state. s. the Constitution.

The boundaries that will be used in the upcoming elections—which are scheduled to take place in less than six months and could significantly impact the balance of power in the House of Representatives—remain unclear following the 2-to-1 ruling.

Voting rights may be affected more broadly by the decision, critics cautioned. The Eric H. Holder, Jr. the past U.S. s. The decision’s “ideological nature could not be more clear,” according to attorney general and current chairman of the National Democratic Redistricting Committee. “.

On Tuesday, Republican Liz Murrill, Louisiana’s attorney general, hinted that the case might go all the way to the U. S. The Supreme Court. Across social media, she stated, “I’ve said all along the Supreme Court needs to clear this up.”.

During a special session of the State Legislature in January, the new districts had been laid out. The new borders had to be drawn out by lawmakers, per a three-judge panel of the U.S. s. The previous map likely violated the Voting Rights Act by reducing Black residents’ ability to vote, according to the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.

However, a number of people who identify as “non-African American” voters and live all over the new congressional district contested the maps, bringing them before a second panel of federal judges. The argument put forth was that legislators had created “communities in far-flung regions of Louisiana” in order to “segregate voters based entirely on their races.”. “.

The newly created majority-Black district spans a long, narrow swath from Shreveport in the northwest of the state to Baton Rouge, the capital city located at the tip of Louisiana’s boot. Black people make up around 54% of the district’s population.

Following their Tuesday decision, Judges David C. Both Robert R. Summerhays and Joseph from the Western District of Louisiana admitted that the process had been influenced by factors other than race, such as defending particular incumbents. Yet, they insisted, it was obvious that the ultimate goal of lawmakers was to designate a second district that would be populated primarily by African Americans.

“The judges wrote that the district’s unusual shape and the evidence that its contours were drawn to absorb sufficient numbers of Black-majority neighborhoods to achieve the goal of a functioning majority Black district all reflect the predominate role of race in the state’s decisions,” they said, citing the statements made by legislative decision makers, the division of cities and parishes along racial lines, and the district’s odd shape. “.

In keeping with the Equal Protection Clause, the judges pointed out that the decision did not address “whether it is feasible to create a second majority Black district in Louisiana that would comply.”. However, they also stated that traditional districting principles are never sacrificed because the Voting Rights Act “never requires race to predominate in drawing congressional districts.”. “.

Carl E. Judge expressed dissent in his opinion. Stewart, of the Fifth Circuit, contended that the challengers had not produced sufficient evidence to support their claims of constitutional rights violations.

He wrote that “the whole record shows that the Louisiana Legislature balanced various political concerns—including the protection of specific incumbents—against race, with no factor taking precedence over the other. “.

As other Southern states have also been ordered by courts to redraw district lines in response to allegations of racial discrimination, the ruling represents the most recent development in the protracted legal dispute over the layout of Louisiana’s congressional districts.

Following the 2020 census, Louisiana was required to redraw congressional districts in order to account for population growth. According to the census, the state’s Black population had grown by 3 points 8 percent in the previous ten years, accounting for about one-third of the total population. However, just one of the six congressional districts on the map created by the Republican-controlled Legislature had a preponderance of Black residents.

A federal judge determined in June 2022 that the map had unlawfully reduced Black voters’ electoral power and was racially gerrymandered. The judge directed lawmakers to establish a new district that would allow African American voters to choose the candidate they wanted to support. However, the contested map was still applied to the election of 2022.

Following a surprise U.S. raid, other Southern states were also mandated to redrew their maps. S. the Supreme Court’s decision from the previous year, in which the justices declared Alabama’s congressional boundaries unconstitutional because they failed to sufficiently take into account the state’s Black population. The decision upheld the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which the conservative majority on the court had gradually weakened.

Opponents of the ruling on Tuesday contended that the consequences in Louisiana might go beyond a single election or even partisan differences. Leading the Power Coalition for Equity and Justice, which participated in the challenge to the initial 2020 map, Ashley Shelton stated that she and other participants remained unfazed.

Ms. Shelton declared, “We will keep fighting for a map that honors the promise of the Voting Rights Act, reflects our communities, and respects the voices of thousands of Louisianians who have participated throughout the redistricting process. We have been adamant about having a representative and equitable map since the beginning. “.

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