Judges restore Louisiana electoral map that is challenged under Voting Rights Act


A divided Supreme Court on Tuesday blocked a district court order that would have required the Louisiana legislature to draw new maps of Congress, including a majority-black second district. The three liberal justices disagreed with the brief, unsigned order, which effectively clears the way for Louisiana to use its original card, which the district court says likely violates federal voting rights law, during next elections in 2022.

The judges also stayed the lawsuit challenging the map until they rule on a similar dispute involving redistricting in Alabama. The court is due to hear oral arguments in the case on October 4.

The Louisiana Conflict, Ardoin v. Robinsonwas born after the Louisiana legislature – vetoed by the state’s Democratic governor, John Bel Edwards – passed a new map of Congress following the 2020 census. Although blacks make up nearly a third of the state’s population, only one of the six congressional districts on the new map contained a majority of black voters.

Voters and civil rights groups have challenged the legislature’s map, arguing it diluted black votes and violated Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination in electoral practices. . On June 6, U.S. District Judge Shelly Dick agreed that the challengers had argued in favor of a second majority district in Black House. She instructed the legislature to draw a revised map with two black-majority districts for use in the state’s primary elections, scheduled for Nov. 8.

Louisiana Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin went to the United States Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit, asking that court to freeze Dick’s order. But an administrative panel of three judges rejected this request. In an unsigned opinion, the panel (which was made up of judges appointed by former presidents Ronald Reagan, Barack Obama and Donald Trump) concluded that although the challengers “have a lot to prove when the merits are finally decided”, Ardoin n had not made the “strong performance” should prevail at this preliminary stage.

The panel ruled that the Purcell’s Principle — the idea that federal courts should not change state election rules shortly before an election — did not apply to this case. The deadline for submitting candidates is more than a month away, while the state’s primary election is still five months away, the panel observed. This case is therefore different from the “classical Purcell case,” the panel suggested, involving an “injunction issued days or weeks before an election — when the election is already underway.”

The panel also expedited Ardoin’s appeal, putting the case to oral argument in early July.

Ardoin came to the Supreme Court on June 17, asking judges to stay the district court order by June 20. He told judges that the 5th Circuit’s refusal to do so threw the state “into a divisive election pandemonium” and created “confusion across the state, which undermines confidence in the integrity of the upcoming elections in Congress. By requiring the state to draw a new map with two majority black districts, he argued, “the district court ordered a racial gerrymander that ‘by its very nature’ is uniquely ‘odious’.”

The challengers urged the judges to keep the district court order in place. They pointed to the “185 pages of meticulous factual findings and carefully reasoned legal analyzes by four federal judges,” and they pushed back against Ardoin’s claim that drawing a new map with two majority black districts would be a racial gerrymander. . Although an expert who drew a map with two of these districts testified that he was “racial aware during the map drawing process,” race was not the main factor in creating the map. map.

The state has enough time to implement the new congressional map, the challengers added, noting that early voting does not begin until October. Indeed, they said, an attorney for the governor said the state had successfully implemented last-minute changes to state election dates and deadlines in the past.

In a one-paragraph order on Tuesday afternoon, the justices suspended the district court’s order and granted a request by Ardoin to add the case to the merits of the Supreme Court brief, thereby circumventing the 5th circuit. The judges have put the case on hold until they issue their decision in the Alabama case, Merrill v. Milligan. A decision in Merrill is probably early next year.

The court’s three liberal justices — Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan — said they would have denied the state’s request to block the district court order. They also disagreed with the court’s decision to take up the case without waiting for the 5th Circuit to intervene.

This article was originally published in Howe on the Court.


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