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Supreme Court asked to halt Louisiana congressional map ruling

A federal court ruled against the state’s map, with a second Black-opportunity district

The Supreme Court building is seen at sunset in Washington.
The Supreme Court building is seen at sunset in Washington. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

A group of Black voters and civil rights groups on Wednesday asked the Supreme Court to let Louisiana use its newest congressional map for this year’s elections, urging them to halt a court ruling that the map violated the Constitution.

That ruling from a three-judge federal court panel last month found the state’s new congressional map violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution and ordered that it not be used.

The State Legislature drew that map in January with a second Black-opportunity district following years of litigation over the Voting Rights Act. Wednesday’s application asked the justices to let the state use that January map this fall.

The applicants, who include some of the original plaintiffs in the case, said last month’s ruling left the state without a map at all, and state officials said they must have one in place by May 15 to conduct the state’s elections.

According to court records, the three-judge panel set a June timeline for the court to approve a new map for the state. But the application said that would be too late, as well as an injustice to Black voters in the state after the Supreme Court itself had prevented the drawing of a new map before the 2022 election.

“Black voters have already been compelled, by this Court’s earlier stay, to undergo an election under a map that, according to all courts that have examined the issue, likely violated the VRA. A stay is needed to ensure that harm is not repeated,” the application said.

In the previous map, Black voters made up about one-third of the state’s voting population but were a majority in only one of the state’s six congressional districts, the New Orleans-based seat of Democratic Rep. Troy Carter.

Black voters and civil rights groups challenged that version of the map and won a court ruling that it likely violated the VRA and should be redrawn. But the Supreme Court paused the redrawing process for the 2022 election while it considered a similar case from Alabama.

The Supreme Court ultimately ruled in favor of a new map in Alabama and allowed the Louisiana process to move forward. In January, the State Legislature approved a new plan that has one Black-majority district centered on New Orleans and another that stretches from Baton Rouge to Shreveport in northwestern Louisiana.

A different group of voters in the state sued the state over the new map, arguing the new map violated the Constitution by prioritizing race in drawing the new lines. A three-judge panel agreed in a 2-1 decision issued last month.

The judges in the majority, David C. Joseph and Robert R. Summerhays, both of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana, criticized the “predominate role of race” in the effort to draw the January map.

The Supreme Court application Wednesday argued that decision “forces the Legislature instead to prioritize compactness and other traditional redistricting principles not just over race, but over other legitimate political and policy objectives,” the application said.

The application argued that state legislators who drew the January map were “predominately motivated by a desire to protect certain incumbents and achieve other policy objectives while also satisfying the VRA,” including drawing the map in a way to protect three Louisiana Republicans in Congress: Speaker Mike Johnson, House Majority Leader Steve Scalise and Rep. Julia Letlow.

The application said that map-drawing came at the expense of another House Republican, Garret Graves, whose district was reshaped into the new Black-majority district.

The Supreme Court rarely allows last-minute changes to congressional districts in an election year, as the application noted.

This report was corrected to reflect the filing on Wednesday.

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