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Supreme Court, for Now, Allows Louisiana Voting Map to Move Forward

The Supreme Court on Wednesday temporarily reinstated a congressional map in Louisiana that includes a second majority-black district, increasing the likelihood that Democrats could win a seat in the state’s House of Representatives in the November election.

The move could be particularly significant in an election cycle in which the balance of power in the House will likely rest on a handful of races.

The order was not signed, as is the Supreme Court’s habit when ruling on emergency requests. The ruling followed a challenge to a lower court ruling that blocked the map drawn by Louisiana’s Republican-controlled Legislature as a racial gerrymander.

The justices said their ruling would remain in effect pending an appeal or ruling from the Supreme Court. The Court’s three liberals said they would have left the blockage in place. Neither Justice Sonia Sotomayor nor Justice Elena Kagan explained their reasoning, but Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, dissenting, wrote that she thought the court intervened too soon.

Although a majority of the justices appeared swayed by concerns that courts would change election procedures closer to an election, she wrote, she did not think that was an issue in this case.

“There is little risk of confusion among voters if a new map were imposed so far before the November election,” she added. “In fact, we have often refused to suspend redistricting orders issued in or near an election. »

Justice Jackson wrote that the intense focus on the electoral map was justified since “the question of how to elect representatives consistent with our shared commitment to racial equality is one of the most important we face as a democracy. But she said the issue before the judges was “much more everyday.”

That question, she wrote, was simply deciding when Louisiana would need a map in place for the next election, and she pointed out that a lower federal court had set that deadline for early this month. June.

The case has a long and complex history, spanning more than two years of litigation and involving challenges from different groups of voters, first under the Voting Rights Act and then under under the Constitution.

In asking the Supreme Court to intervene, Elizabeth B. Murrill, Louisiana Attorney General, urged the justices to act quickly.

Louisiana’s secretary of state had set a May 15 deadline to prepare for the 2024 election, she wrote, adding that the lower court’s ruling left the state without a “congressional map.”

“Louisiana’s impossible situation in this redistricting cycle would be comical if it were not so serious,” she wrote.

A group of voters, pointing to the equal protection clause, argued for the new map to be blocked. They claimed the map, approved by the Republican-controlled state Legislature after being asked to redraw it, “imposed a brutal racial gerrymander” on millions of voters.

The new district was a “jagged, narrow 250-mile scar” connecting the majority-black precincts of Baton Rouge and Shreveport and woven “with surgical efficiency to encircle pockets of black voters and exclude whites and other races “, wrote the plaintiffs’ lawyers. in their memory.

Ms. Murrill and a group of black voters welcomed the court’s decision, saying it would pave the way for fair elections.

“The hope of achieving a map with two districts where black voters can finally have fair representation has been our north star and our beacon for years now,” said Ashley Shelton, president of the Power Coalition for Equity and Justice, who was among the plaintiffs who asked the judges to block the lower court’s decision.

Lawyers for the group of voters who sought to block the new map said they were confident they would ultimately prevail.

“The State of Louisiana has adopted a brutal racial gerrymander that segregates its voters based on their race,” attorneys Edward Greim and Paul Hurd said in a statement. “Louisiana politicians passed the law at the last minute, lost in court, then cynically ran out of time to get a replacement card. »

This dispute is the latest in a series of recent voting rights disputes brought before the Supreme Court.

After the 2020 census showed an increase in the number of black voters, Louisiana’s Republican-controlled legislature drew a new map that included only one black-majority congressional district out of six seats, triggering a legal battle.

In 2022, a federal judge barred the state from using the card, ruling that Black voters could likely demonstrate that it violated the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

A federal appeals court upheld that decision last year after the Supreme Court’s decision in the Alabama voting case, Allen v. Milligan. In January, Louisiana lawmakers began drafting a new map for the upcoming election and approved a version that added a second district with a majority of black voters.

According to the new map, the Second District connects communities from Baton Rouge, the state capital, in the southeastern part of the state, to Shreveport, in the northwest part of the state.

A group of Louisiana voters, known in court filings as the “Callais plaintiffs,” challenged the map, arguing that it was racist, violating the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution. In late April, a panel of federal judges temporarily blocked the state from using the new card.

About a week ago, the “Robinson plaintiffs,” who challenged the first map, and the state of Louisiana requested that judges temporarily allow the legislature’s map to be used while appeals move forward.

Ms. Murrill, in the State’s brief, argued that the situation “literally pits” the two countries against each other, with “the State hopelessly stuck in the middle.”

“This absurd situation is an affront to Louisiana, its voters and democracy itself,” she wrote. “The madness must stop.”

Emilie Cochrane reports contributed.

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jack colman

With a penchant for words, jack began writing at an early age. As editor-in-chief of his high school newspaper, he honed his skills telling impactful stories. Smith went on to study journalism at Columbia University, where he graduated top of his class.After interning at the New York Times, jack landed a role as a news writer. Over the past decade, he has covered major events like presidential elections and natural disasters. His ability to craft compelling narratives that capture the human experience has earned him acclaim.Though writing is his passion, jack also enjoys hiking, cooking and reading historical fiction in his free time. With an eye for detail and knack for storytelling, he continues making his mark at the forefront of journalism.
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