Louisiana court throws away 'racial gerrymander' that would have benefited Democrats

 May 1, 2024

A panel of federal judges has struck down a congressional map in Louisiana that created a new black-majority district.

The ruling raises a fresh controversy for the Supreme Court, which is wrapping up a historic term full of controversy over the 2024 election.

In a shocking 2-1 decision, the Louisiana court found that the state's new map resulted in an "impermissible racial gerrymander."

The decision, if allowed to stand, would give Republicans a little breathing room in their efforts to hold onto their narrow House majority, as the newly created district would have been an easy win for Democrats.

Louisiana map tossed out

The controversy turns on the Voting Rights Act, which protects minorities from "vote dilution" by requiring majority-minority districts to be drawn under certain circumstances.

Liberal groups have regularly pressed vote dilution claims to challenge Republican-drawn maps as discriminatory. But the three-judge Louisiana court found that the state's new map went too far in the other direction, resulting in a "racial gerrymander" that violates the Constitution.

"The Voting Rights Act protects minority voters against dilution resulting from redistricting maps that ‘crack’ or ‘pack’ a large and ‘geographically compact’ minority population,” the ruling stated.

“On the other hand, the Equal Protection Clauses applies strict scrutiny to redistricting that is grounded predominantly on race.”

Judges David Joseph and Robert Summerhays, both appointees of President Trump, said race played a "predominate role." Judge Carl Stewart, a Clinton appointee, dissented, arguing the map had other motivations besides race.

"The panel majority is correct in noting that this is a mixed motive case,” Stewart wrote in his dissent. “But to note this and then to subsequently make a conclusory determination as to racial predominance is hard to comprehend.”

Supreme Court review likely

The map was signed into law by Republican governor Jeff Landry in January after a two-year court battle.

The state's previous map had one black-majority district.

The Supreme Court allowed the old map to be used in the 2022 midterm elections while the court dealt with a similar dispute in Alabama, in which the high court ultimately ordered Alabama to create a second black district.

The new map in Louisiana would turn Republican Garret Graves' district into a majority-black district. Election officials in Louisiana have set a deadline of May 15 for maps to be finalized.

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Thomas Jefferson
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