Liberal justices dissent as Supreme Court accepts Louisiana congressional map that includes second majority-Black district

 May 16, 2024

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Wednesday to accept a congressional redistricting map that would create a second district with a Black majority, The Hill reported. This overrules an earlier decision by a lower court to reject the map.

The high court agreed to keep the map GOP Gov. Jeff Landry signed into law in January. It was redrawn after an earlier map was rejected because it wasn't representative enough of the state's minority population.

However, the latest objection came from a dozen non-Black voters who sued in February on the basis that the "state has engaged in explicit, racial segregation of voters and intentional discrimination against voters based on race." A federal judge had agreed that the map's districting violated the Equal Protection Clause before it went before the high court.

Louisiana is two-thirds black, but the original map had only one district. The most recent map accepted by the Supreme Court includes both majority Black House districts, representing a vast improvement.

The Dissenting Opinion

The map seems like a positive change to the one previously proposed. However,  Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson objected on the grounds that the Supreme Court had no business meddling in the debate in the first place.

Jackson believed it was better to "let the District Court’s remedial process run its course before considering whether our emergency intervention was warranted." In fact, Jackson believed that there would be plenty of time to sort it all out before the 2024 election, thus negating the need for the high court's involvement.

“There is little risk of voter confusion from a new map being imposed this far out from the November election," Jackson wrote, according to the Associated Press. However, the court doesn't have an official cut-off for when it should intervene in these cases leading up to a general election.

Jackson's decision was endorsed by the other two liberal Justices, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan. Still, this decision is a positive for Democrats in the upcoming election.

Louisiana has six congressional districts, and now two are drawn to include a majority of Black voters who often vote for Democrats. This improves Democrats' 2024 hopes of taking the House of Representatives.

A Larger Problem

Some Democrats are happy with the outcome, but others are decrying the way the decision was made. CNN Supreme Court analyst Steve Vladeck believes that the decision could influence how other redistricting disputes are handled by the court.

"This ruling is a short-term win for Black voters in Louisiana, and, thus, Democrats, but a long-term expansion of a deeply controversial approach to how federal courts handle election-year voting cases..." Vladeck, a University of Texas School of Law professor, warned.  The court often invokes the Purcell principle which allows it to take a hands-off approach on any "last minute" decision regarding elections.

“One of the biggest criticisms of Purcell is that it’s deeply subjective with regard to how close to an election federal courts should stay their hand. Today’s ruling only compounds that critique because it expressly applies it more than five months before an election without any explanation for why," Vladek explained.

"That will make Purcell both broader and more malleable in lower courts going forward," he added. Still, it seems the elected officials have spoken on behalf of their constituents, and the Supreme Court has agreed with their assessment.

Redistricting only becomes controversial for Democrats when they are not the ones doing it. One of the spoils of political victory is the right to draw a politically advantageous congressional map, and the GOP is simply doing what's best for their reelection efforts.

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