Judge blocks Louisiana GOP’s attempt at gerrymandering away Black voters’ power

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, vetoed the bill Republicans initially passed, preventing GOP legislators from pushing through their redistricting plan. “Out of the 163 total districts created by the Legislature in the various bills passed, not a single additional majority minority seat was created, despite the fact that the percentage of the Black population increased and the white population decreased,” Edwards’ office wrote in a news releaseEdwards cited in the release U.S. Census data showing that Black voters make up nearly a third of the state’s voters.

“It is my firm belief that this map violates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and further is not in line with the principle of fundamental fairness that should have driven this process,” Edwards wrote in his veto letter.

That element of the Voting Rights Act prohibits discriminatory voting procedures on the basis of race. Edwards said in his veto letter that while the number of Black voting-age Louisianians increased by 4.4% from 2010 to 2020, the GOP’s map “preserved the status quo,” passing a map in which Black voters in five of the state’s six congressional districts “are deprived of the opportunity to elect a candidate of their choice.”

“As eloquently discussed by Senator Cleo Fields on the floor of the Senate, only five Black members from Louisiana have been elected and seated in the United States House of Representatives since statehood,” Edwards said. “This injustice cannot continue.”

While the Supreme Court has allowed states to pass maps that weaken the power of the Black vote, citing a Supreme Court decision requiring courts to avoid changes too close to an election to avoid confusion, Judge Dick argued the principle wasn’t applicable in Louisiana, The Times reported.

“Placing a bureaucratic strain on a state agency in order to rectify a violation of federal law is not analogous to a natural disaster,” she wrote. “Protecting voting rights is quite clearly in the public interest, while allowing elections to proceed under a map that violates federal law most certainly is not.”

RELATED STORY: ‘Sad day’: Georgia GOP pushes through virtual ode to gerrymandering in new redistricting plan

Republican Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin has filed a notice of appeal, which could end in a U.S. Supreme Court weigh-in on the matter, Politico reported. If that happens, a similar case in Alabama paints a grim picture of the possible outcome.

The top court reversed a lower court’s decision to require Republicans to redraw its congressional maps after obvious examples of attempted gerrymandering.

Justice Elena Kagan wrote in her dissent that the majority opinion “does a disservice to the District Court, which meticulously applied this Court’s longstanding voting-rights precedent.” She added: “And most of all, it does a disservice to Black Alabamians who under that precedent have had their electoral power diminished—in violation of a law this Court once knew to buttress all of American democracy.”  

RELATED STORY: From the shadow docket, radical Supreme Court blows up Voting Rights Act, allows racist gerrymander

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