Supreme Court decides Louisiana's latest congressional districting map can remain in place for the 2024 election

 May 17, 2024

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Wednesday to accept a congressional redistricting map for the 2024 election despite objections to it, SCOTUS Blog reported. The map creates a second congression district that is majority Black, but opponents don't believe it goes far enough. 

A lawsuit filed against the state alleged that race was unfairly considered when redrawing the congressional maps. The high court did not make its decision based on that claim, however.

Instead, the justices who signed the brief leaned on the Purcell principle, which prohibits the courts from getting involved in election-related issues too close to the election. The rationale is that changes wouldn't filter down to voters and election officials in a timely manner.

The high court's decision fell along conservative lines, with the three liberal justices dissenting. Led by Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, Justices Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor said that there was ample time before the 2024 election that the Purcell principle wouldn't apply.

The Issue of Race

Objections first began when the Louisiana legislature redrew congression maps for the 2022 election. Although the 2020 census revealed that Louisiana's population is approximately one-third black, only one of the six districts was drawn in such a way that it was majority Black.

After a challenge on the basis that the map violated the Voting Rights Act, the Supreme Court sent the issue back to the state to redraw a more equitable map in time for the 2024 election. The latest decision from the high court applied to the newest map.

Some are warning that it sets a precedent on how other race-based disputes on redistricting are handled. "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..." CNN Supreme Court analyst Steve Vladeck said.

He believes the court was skirting the race issue by invoking the Purcell principle. “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," Vladeck, a University of Texas School of Law professor, warned.

"Today’s ruling only compounds that critique because it expressly applies it more than five months before an election without any explanation for why. That will make Purcell both broader and more malleable in lower courts going forward," Vladek added.

Weaponizing the Maps

The challenge to Louisiana's map is part of a growing trend among Democrats. After suffering electoral losses that put the GOP in charge of congressional redistricting, they've taken to the courts to try to override that privilege.

Heritage Foundation senior legal fellow Hans Von Spakovsky explained that a 2019 Supreme Court decision that said gerrymandering is not unconstitutional has forced the issue into state courts. Several Democrats and a handful of Republicans have used them as a tactic.

"In that Supreme Court decision [Rucho v. Common Cause], the court said political gerrymandering does not violate the U.S. Constitution. That basically struck out the federal Courts and the federal Constitution as a possible tool by Democrats to basically object to redistricting that they didn't like," Von Spakovsky told Fox News.

"So, they then switched to state courts. And they started filing claims, like in North Carolina, for example, Pennsylvania, claiming that political gerrymandering that favored – in those cases – the Republican Party violated the state's constitution," he added.

The party that wins elections is supposed to draw the congressional districting maps. Unfortunately, Democrats are sore losers and have taken to the courts to make sure that doesn't happen, but they don't always get what they want.

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