U.S. Supreme Court

Supreme Court blocks order intended to increase Black voting power in Louisiana, grants cert

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The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday stayed a federal judge’s order that required Louisiana to draw a new voting map with two majority-Black districts instead of one.

The high court’s June 28 order had the effect of reinstating a Republican-drawn map for 2022 elections, report SCOTUSblog, the New York Times, the Washington Post, Reuters and the Associated Press.

In addition to granting the stay, the Supreme Court granted certiorari, even though a federal appeals court had not ruled on the merits of the challenge to Louisiana’s map. The case will be put on hold until the Supreme Court hears a second, similar case from Alabama, which is scheduled for argument Oct. 4.

The Supreme Court’s three liberal justices dissented to the court’s stay and cert grant in the Louisiana case.

The Supreme Court had acted in response to an emergency application for a stay. Its order did not provide any explanation for its decision.

Black people make up nearly one-third of the population in Louisiana, but only one of the state’s six congressional districts has a Black majority. U.S. District Chief Judge Shelly Dick of the Middle District of Louisiana, the federal judge who ordered a second Black-majority district, had ruled that the GOP-drawn map likely violated the Voting Rights Act.

The Louisiana case is Ardoin v. Robinson, and the Alabama case is Merrill v. Milligan. Both cases concern Section 2 of the Voting Right Act, which bans any voting procedure that “results in a denial or abridgment of the right of any citizen of the United States to vote on account of race or color.”

According to Reuters, the Merrill case “could make it harder for courts to consider race when determining whether an electoral district map violates the Voting Rights Act’s Section 2.”

The New York Times had a similar observation.

“The court’s order is a further indication that it is open to weakening the role race may play in drawing voting districts for federal elections,” the New York Times said.

Previously, the Supreme Court ruled that federal courts have no power to consider election districts drawn to benefit a political party.

“Partisan gerrymandering claims present political questions beyond the reach of the federal courts,” the Supreme Court ruled in June 2019.

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