The Supreme Court on Thursday declined to allow a lower court to move forward with redrawing Louisiana’s congressional map.
A federal district court judge had found that Louisiana’s first map after the 2020 census violated the Voting Rights Act by diluting the voting power of Black voters, and then sought to move forward on the process to have an outside expert redraw it.
But the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit last month ordered a halt to the district court judge’s plan, after the state argued its Legislature had not been given the chance to draw its own new map. Separately, the state has appealed the ruling that the original map violated the law, which is still pending at the 5th Circuit.
The challengers to the Louisiana map had asked the Supreme Court to reverse the appeals court and allow the district court judge to move forward with the process to redraw the map.
Thursday’s order from the Supreme Court turned aside that request in a one-line order, along with a concurrence from Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson that emphasized that the litigation should be resolved in time for the 2024 election.
State officials argued the Legislature should not have to draw a new map while challenging that ruling that the initial map violated the VRA. And state officials said if the state loses that appeal, the district court judge should give the Legislature enough time to draw one before having an outside expert impose one on the state.
Only one of the state’s six congressional districts is a minority-majority district, represented by Democratic Rep. Troy Carter, while Black voters make up almost a third of the state’s population. That district stretches from East Baton Rouge to New Orleans.
The challengers, who include voters and the state NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, have sought a map that would take some of the communities from East Baton Rouge and combine them with Black-majority communities in the Mississippi Delta region in the eastern portion of the state to make a second Black-opportunity district.
Louisiana has argued that drawing a district where Black voters could decide the result of the election, which may mean a second Democratic seat in the state, would require the state to unconstitutionally prioritize race over other redistricting concerns.
U.S. District Judge Shelly Dick initially found the state’s map likely violated the VRA before the 2022 election, and the state appealed that decision to the 5th Circuit.
The Supreme Court paused the case while it considered separate litigation over Alabama’s congressional map, where plaintiffs made similar arguments seeking a second Black-opportunity district in the state.
The Supreme Court, on a 5-4 vote, upheld a lower court order that the Alabama map likely violated the VRA. Following that decision, the justices allowed the litigation in both Louisiana and Alabama to move forward.
Earlier this month, a panel of judges from the 5th Circuit heard Louisiana’s appeal, and the court could rule at any time.
Experts have said that litigation over redistricting in Louisiana, Alabama and elsewhere could decide the balance of power in the closely divided House of Representatives next year.