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Supreme Court clears way for latest Louisiana congressional map

Brief order allows state to use the lines drawn in January for this year's elections

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

The Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that Louisiana can use its latest congressional map that contains two Black opportunity districts for this year’s election.

Louisiana had adopted the map in January following a court order in a legal challenge to the congressional districts related to the Voting Rights Act.

But a lower court last month in a separate legal challenge ordered a halt to elections using that newest map, ruling that it violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution.

The Supreme Court, in a brief order, paused that ruling from last month, citing a precedent that courts should not change election rules too close to an election because it could add to voter confusion.

The ruling comes as state officials said they needed a final plan by Wednesday to successfully prepare for this year’s election.

The three Democrat-appointed justices on the court dissented from the decision to grant a stay. Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson wrote a dissent that criticized the majority’s handling of last-minute map changes and said that the justices should have allowed the lower court’s redistricting process to play out.

“There is little risk of voter confusion from a new map being imposed this far out from the November election,” Jackson wrote.

The Republican-controlled state legislature passed the new map into law in January following years of litigation over the first map the state adopted following the 2020 census.

Black voters make up about one-third of the state’s voting population, and voters, civil rights groups and the state have spent the last three years in court fighting over how to represent that bloc’s voting power through the state congressional map.

The first map the state drew following the 2020 census had a Black majority in one of the state’s six congressional districts, the New Orleans-based seat of Democratic Rep. Troy Carter.

That plan faced a successful challenge under the Voting Rights Act from Black voters and civil rights groups who argued the map deliberately limited the power of Black voters. State legislators adopted a new plan in January rather than have the court draw a new map.

That newest map had one Black-majority district centered in New Orleans and another that stretched from Baton Rouge to Shreveport in northwestern Louisiana. Legislators most significantly changed the district currently held by Rep. Garret Graves, R-La., to draw the new district.

The January plan faced a court challenge from a different group of voters in the state, who convinced a three-judge panel last month that it violated the Constitution by prioritizing race in drawing the new lines.

The three-judge court in the current case had originally scheduled a new map-drawing process to finish in June.

That court ruling prompted a flurry of Supreme Court filings, and eventually Wednesday’s ruling that paused the lower court litigation for this election.

The court fight could eventually result in another new map for Louisiana in future elections, but the state will use the January plan in this year’s election following Wednesday’s ruling.

The justices frequently pause last-minute changes to election maps and other rules to prevent disruptions to the election process, including when the court paused the new map-drawing process in Louisiana ahead of the 2022 election.

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