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Black Voters Shuffle Districts in Louisiana This Week


Photo credit: Edmond Dantes, courtesy of Pexels

White voters are attempting to hop the fence with their overpriced Igloo cups and use the 14th and 15th amendments—designed to protect the rights of minoritized populations—to preserve their supermajority in Louisiana.

 

A complaint, filed in January argues the State of Louisiana, which is only 57% white, doesn’t need to have a congressional map with more than one majority Black district. The plaintiffs say a congressional map containing two Black districts, which was recently approved by the Louisiana legislature (Senate Bill 8), is an unconstitutional racial gerrymander in violation of the 14th and 15th amendments, which—again—was arguably designed to protect non-white voters.

 

It’s anybody’s guess how the Supreme Court is going to go on this.

“From start to finish the State’s purpose (in designing the map) was clear: segregate voters based entirely on their races and create two majority-African American voting districts and four majority non-African American districts, without regard for any traditional redistricting criteria,” plaintiffs argued in January. “Senate Bill 8’s sponsors and many other lawmakers expressly stated their intent was to maximize the voting strength of African American voters by stripping them from their communities in far-flung regions of Louisiana and consolidating them into two districts that stretched hundreds of miles in length and dwindled to less than a mile in width. In doing so, the State engaged in textbook racial gerrymandering and violated the U.S. Constitution.”

 

The people making this argument in U.S. District court don’t want you to know “stripping (African Americans) from their communities in far-flung regions of Louisiana and consolidating them into two districts” actually means pulling them out of majority white districts where white legislators deliberately plugged them to drown their vote under white voters.

 

In April, a three-judge panel of the U.S. District Court of the Western District of Louisiana complicated matters by declaring Senate Bill 8 “violates the Equal Protection Clause as an impermissible racial gerrymander.” By the panel’s weird argument, legislators weren’t supposed to use race to build the map with it’s two Black districts, even though Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act demands legislators somehow keep race in mind when building maps. You can’t keep maps racially fair and avoid diluting the power of Black voters without first tallying up a region’s Black voters.

 

And then, attorneys for Louisiana Secretary of State Nancy Landry and state Attorney General Elizabeth Murrill—both Republicans—further mucked things up last week by filing an emergency application asking Trump’s U.S. Supreme Court for permission to use the state’s 2022 map, which just happens to contain only one majority-Black district.

 




The NAACP Legal Defense Fund, responded with its own emergency filing for an expedited ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court, arguing if the fairer SB 8 map is not in place for the 2024 elections “there is a significant risk” that no VRA-compliant map will be in place for the 2024 elections. The NAACP says Black voters will be “irreparably harmed once again if they are deprived of a map that provides a second district in which Black voters have an opportunity to elect their candidates of choice.”

 

It’s anybody’s guess how the Supreme Court is going to go on this. Last year, the court rejected an appeal and forced white Alabama legislators to redraw a map with a second majority-Black district. However, this is the same court that gutted the Voting Rights Act 10 years ago.

 

Even as Black Louisiana residents struggle for fair apportionment in legislative elections, their influence in Louisiana courts remains minimal. So, it was nice to see the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law (LCCR) praising a new state bill giving a judicial election in Baton Rouge a majority of Black voters. Previously, the district lines for the Baton Rouge territory split the Black voting population into two majority-white districts. 

 

The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law filed a suit in 2019 on behalf of the Louisiana State Conference of the NAACP under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act to create a new Black-majority district, but the committee says the new law signed by the state governor resolves the lawsuit. The new territory will compliment the existing Black majority district in New Orleans, which was created under a federal court Consent Decree in 1991.

 

“The map has not been redrawn since the 1990s, and it’s about time the people of Baton Rouge have a fair say as to who sits on the highest court of their state,” said LCCR Senior Counsel Jennifer Nwachukwu.

 

Louisiana resident Anthony C. Allen Sr. called the legislation “a historic moment for the State of Louisiana,” and praised the state for not having to be made to create the district under a court order, as it did the New Orleans district.



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