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Louisiana voters ask Supreme Court to change congressional map

Filing argues justices should allow a lower court's ruling that blocked use of latest districts

The Supreme Court on April 29.
The Supreme Court on April 29. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

A group of Louisiana voters urged the Supreme Court on Monday not to pause a ruling that threw out the state’s latest congressional map, arguing the state’s new map unconstitutionally prioritized race.

The voters argued to keep in place a ruling from a three-judge federal court that blocked the use of the newest map for any election because it violated the Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause.

The filing called the new map a “brutal racial gerrymander” and claimed the goal of legislators was to “create two majority-Black districts where race predominates at the expense of all other criteria,” in making the new map.

In the filing, the voters urged the justices to let the lower court supervise the drawing of a new, third map by June or let this year’s election proceed under the state’s previous map.

But the state’s previous map itself was redrawn after a legal challenge based on race by a separate group of voters, some of whom have asked the Supreme Court to halt this latest ruling. The state drew that newest map in January in response to a court order in a separate case that found the previous map likely violated the Voting Rights Act.

The last-minute fight over Louisiana’s map could come to a head in the next few days, as state officials have said they need the map finalized by May 15 to have it ready for this year’s election.

The justices may rule in the next few days on the case, effectively deciding whether the state will have a second Black-majority congressional seat that could swing to Democrats.

The Supreme Court’s ruling will be the latest twist in the saga of the state’s congressional map.

In the first map the state drew in response to the 2020 census, 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.

However, that faced a challenge from Black voters and civil rights groups who argued that it deliberately limited the political power of Black voters. A separate three-judge panel ordered the state to redraw the map.

That new map, adopted in January, had 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 challenged that new map and argued it violated the Constitution by prioritizing race in drawing the new lines.

When a 2-1 district court panel agreed last month, it set off the emergency applications to the Supreme Court.

Last week, the same Black voters and civil rights groups in the state who challenged the first map asked the Supreme Court to intervene in the case, as did Louisiana itself.

The original challengers pointed out that the Supreme Court has stayed last-minute changes to congressional maps in past cycles, including in Louisiana before the 2022 election.

In Louisiana’s Friday filing, the state argued the case “screams” for a short-term stay, allowing the state to use either its original map or the January one for the coming election.

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