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Even the conservative SCOTUS agrees that Louisiana’s congressional map was diluting Black votes


FILE – A woman presents her identification to vote through a plexiglass barrier, to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, on election day at the Matin Luther King, Jr. Elementary School, in the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans on Nov. 3, 2020. Louisiana’s secretary of state and attorney general asked the U.S. Supreme Court on Friday, June 17, 2022, to put a hold on a federal judge’s order for the state to create a second majority Black congressional district by Monday. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert, File)

The conservative-majority U.S. Supreme Court blocked Louisiana’s gerrymandered congressional map Monday, forcing the state to add a second majority-Black district.

In an order releasing the Court’s hold on the case of Ardoin v. Robinson, the justices dismissed a previously-issued writ of certiorari as “improvidently granted.” The case had been stayed since June 28, 2022, following an appeal from the Pelican State of a circuit court ruling that had upheld a district court’s June 6, 2022 decision to block enforcement of the Louisiana congressional map for the 2022 election cycle. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit — one of the nation’s most conservative appeals courts — had ruled to put the map on hold pending the full appeal.

Louisiana appealed to the justices, who temporarily reinstated the new districting map via a 6-3 order. The Court’s conservative justices also agreed to review the case before the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued a decision and paused the case until the Court decided the Alabama case.

There were no noted dissents in Monday’s unsigned order.

The ruling comes on the heels of a similar decision by the high court earlier this month that Alabama unfairly diluted the power of Black voters in that state and noted that the case should be resolved in lower courts “in advance of the 2024 congressional elections in Louisiana.” The Louisiana case had been on hold pending the decision in the Alabama matter.

Monday’s ruling unfreezes a 2022 lawsuit challenging the Louisiana map. The complaint challenged Louisiana’s then-new congressional map on the basis that it dilutes the voting strength of Black residents in violation of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA), which prohibits voting practices or procedures that discriminate against people on the basis of race, color, or if they belong to certain “language minority groups.” The lawsuit noted that while one-third of Louisiana’s residents are Black, only one of the state’s six congressional districts has a Black voting majority. The voting map was passed after the Republican legislature overrode Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards’ March 2022 veto.

The Supreme Court’s June 8 ruling in the Alabama case addressed similar discrimination allegations to those against Louisiana. In a 5-4 opinion penned by Chief Justice John Roberts, Alabama’s congressional redistricting map was found to have “likely” violated Section 2 of the VRA. The unusual lineup in the Alabama case included Justice Brett Kavanaugh siding with the Court’s majority, leaving Justices Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch, Amy Coney Barrett, and Samuel Alito to dissent.

The justices’ ruling against Louisiana is the second legal blow to the Pelican State in four days. The Court ruled 8-1 Friday that neither Louisiana nor Texas had standing to challenge the Biden administration Department of Homeland Security’s 2021 “Guidelines for the Enforcement of Civil Immigration Law.”

The VRA, passed in 1965, initially required localities with a history of race-based discrimination to seek preclearance from the federal government before creating or modifying any voting maps.  However, in 2013, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that preclearance was no longer necessary. Other recent cases have threatened to further erode the protections put into place by the VRA.

The Supreme Court’s rulings in the Louisiana and Alabama voting rights cases surprised much of the legal world given that the Court has taken actions to gut the VRA in several recent rulings.

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Elura is a columnist and trial analyst for Law & Crime. Elura is also a former civil prosecutor for NYC's Administration for Children's Services, the CEO of Lawyer Up, and the author of How To Talk To Your Lawyer and the Legalese-to-English series. Follow Elura on Twitter @elurananos