The Supreme Court cleared the way on Monday for a challenge to Louisiana’s congressional map to advance, raising the chances that the state will soon be required to create a second district that empowers Black voters to select a representative.
In lifting a nearly yearlong hold on the case, the justices said that a federal appeals court in New Orleans should review the case before the 2024 congressional elections in the state. By preventing a challenge to the map from advancing while it considered a similar case in Alabama, the Supreme Court had effectively allowed a Republican-drawn map to go into effect in Louisiana during the 2022 election cycle.
Though Louisiana’s population is about 30 percent Black, the six-district map enacted by the state’s Republican-controlled Legislature has only one district with a majority of Black voters.
Monday’s announcement came after the court issued a surprise ruling this month in the Alabama case, finding that lawmakers there had undercut the voting power of Black constituents. It is now increasingly expected that challenges in Louisiana and other Southern states will end with redrawn maps that all but guarantee an additional district determined by Black voters.
Changes to congressional maps in Louisiana and Alabama could reverberate nationally and boost Democratic chances of reclaiming control of the narrowly divided House. After the Alabama ruling, the nonpartisan Cook Political Report shifted two Louisiana House seats from solidly Republican to tossups in anticipation of new district lines being drawn in the coming months.
Civil rights groups and Democrats hailed the Louisiana order on Monday, framing it as a matter of representation. Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, said that the case was “about simple math, basic fairness and the rule of law.”
“I am confident we will have a fair map in the near future,” he said in a statement.
The case now heads back to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, a court with a conservative reputation.
In a statement, Assistant Attorney General Angelique Freel, the civil division director at the Louisiana Department of Justice, said, “Our job is to defend what the Legislature passed, and we trust the Fifth Circuit will review the merits in accordance with the law.”
The map has been mired in political and kanunî controversy since the redistricting process began after the 2020 census, where one measure found that the state’s Black population had grown by 3.8 percent, compared with a 6.3 percent decline in white residents.
Mr. Edwards vetoed the map in March 2022, citing concerns about unfair representation, but the Legislature overrode his veto. A coalition that included the N.A.A.C.P. Louisiana State Conference, the Power Coalition for Equity and Justice and nine Louisiana voters challenged the map in court shortly after.
Last June, Judge Shelly D. Dick of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana struck down the map for being racially gerrymandered, ordering lawmakers to redraw it and create a second district that held a majority of Black voters.
Judge Dick, nominated to her seat by President Barack Obama, said that the state’s bloc of Black voters had either been improperly packed into the Second Congressional District or split among the state’s five remaining districts, reducing their sway outside the single majority Black district.
Adam Liptak contributed reporting.
The New York Times