US Supreme Courtroom permits Louisiana electoral map to be challenged on racial bias grounds

WASHINGTON, June 28 (Reuters) – The Supreme Court on Tuesday reinstated a Republican-drawn map of the six U.S. House districts in Louisiana that had been blocked by a judge who found it likely discriminated against black voters, a setback for Democrats as they seek to maintain control of Congress in November’s election.

The judges granted a motion by the Republican Secretary of State from Louisiana to stay U.S. District Judge Shelly Dick’s injunction calling for a new map with a second district in which black voters represent a majority of voters, rather than just one in the from version adopted by the Republicans. led state parliament.

The three liberal judges of the nine-member court, with a conservative majority, disagreed with the decision.

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Democrats control the U.S. House of Representatives by a narrow margin, making each seat vital to Republicans’ efforts to wrest control of one or both houses of Congress from President Joe Biden’s party in the midterm elections.

The New Orleans-based 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Circuits on June 12 refused to reinstate Republican-drawn Louisiana districts, calling the evidence presented by black voters who questioned the map as “stronger ‘ referred to as the evidence presented in defense of the map.

Plaintiffs said in their lawsuit that the map drawn by Republicans “maximizes political power for white citizens” by packing a large number of black voters into a single county and dividing the rest among the five others, where they are too few to vote for their favorite candidates.

The Louisiana Legislature passed the map in February. Democratic Gov. Jon Bel Edwards then vetoed it — he criticized it for not including a black-majority second district, given that black voters make up nearly a third of the state’s population — but lawmakers overrode the veto .

Democrats have accused Republicans of using state legislature majorities to draw electoral maps that dilute the influence of black and other minority voters who tend to support Democratic candidates. Republicans have said that consideration of race when drawing electoral maps must be limited.

After the map was challenged by groups of black voters — one alongside civil rights groups like the Louisiana NAACP — the judge ruled the way it was drawn likely violated the Voting Rights Act. This landmark 1965 federal law has been used for decades to discourage racially biased actions in voting and draw districts.

Plaintiffs said that in Louisiana, “highly racially polarized voting almost universally results in the electoral defeat of black-preferred candidates.”

Louisiana Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin said in his filing that the judge’s order to accept a district with a second majority of blacks requires that race be dominant in the mapmaking process, which violates the U.S. Constitution’s 14th Amendment guarantee of equality protection under the law.

The dispute in Louisiana mirrors a dispute from Alabama, which the Supreme Court has already agreed to hear that the Voting Rights Act could be further weakened. The disputes in the Alabama case are scheduled for October 4. The final ruling, due by the end of June 2023, could make it more difficult for courts to consider race when determining whether a constituency map violates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, which prohibits voting practices that result in racial discrimination.

Tuesday’s Supreme Court decision said judges would take up the Louisiana case and hold it until the Alabama case was decided.

The Louisiana case is among dozens of legal challenges across the country over the makeup of electoral districts, which are redrawn each decade to reflect population changes measured by a national census last taken in 2020.

In most states, such reallocation is done by the party in power, which can result in card manipulation to the party’s advantage.

In a ruling last July in favor of Republican-backed Arizona voting restrictions, the Supreme Court made it harder to prove Section 2 violations.

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Reporting by Andrew Chung; Editing by Will Dunham

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