Federal Court Mandates Louisiana’s New Voting Map by January



A federal appeals court has ruled that Louisiana’s congressional map likely violates the Voting Rights Act by reducing the power of Black voters, and has ordered a new map by January 15. The state legislature, led by Republicans, must create a new set of voting districts to be used in the 2024 elections. This follows similar accusations and legal battles in other southern states, such as Alabama and Georgia, where courts have found that redistricting diluted the votes of Black citizens.

Federal Appeals Court Challenges Louisiana’s Congressional Map

Last Friday, a federal appeals court agreed with a lower court ruling that the recent congressional map of Louisiana likely violated the Voting Rights Act by minimizing the influence of Black voters. The court ordered Louisiana to finalize a revised map by January 15.

The ruling issued by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit directed the State Legislature to prepare a new set of voting districts for the 2024 Louisiana congressional elections. Louisiana, a Republican-led state, is among several Southern states facing accusations of racial bias in their electoral maps.

In recent months, both Alabama and Georgia have been found to have violated the Voting Rights Act by lessening the power of Black voters during redistricting. Both states have been ordered to introduce new maps for the 2024 elections.

The Fifth Circuit’s Reference to the Supreme Court Decision

The Fifth Circuit referred to the Supreme Court’s decision in its Friday ruling and applied the court’s reasoning to Louisiana’s redistricting process. Although Jeff Landry, the state’s Republican governor-elect, was expected to call a special legislative session to address the issue, it remains uncertain whether lawmakers will have enough time to decide on a new map before the January 15 deadline.

Outgoing governor, John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, has yet to announce whether a special session will be called before the end of his term. Despite this uncertainty, Edwards expressed confidence in a fair outcome with two majority Black districts in the upcoming congressional elections.

After the 2020 census, which found Louisiana’s Black population had grown by 3.8 percent in the previous decade while the white residents had declined by 6.3 percent, all states were obliged to redraw their congressional districts. Despite this population shift, Louisiana’s Republican-led Legislature passed a map that included only one majority Black congressional district out of six.

Controversy and Legal Challenges

The newly approved map was vetoed by Governor Edwards in March 2022, citing violation of the Voting Rights Act and lack of fundamental fairness. Despite the veto, the Legislature proceeded, leading to a coalition including the N.A.A.C.P. Louisiana State Conference and nine Louisiana voters challenging it.

Last summer, a federal judge in Louisiana ruled the map had been racially gerrymandered and ordered lawmakers to create a second district with a majority of Black voters. However, due to legal doctrine preventing changes to election procedures too close to Election Day, the disputed map was used in the 2022 elections.

If Louisiana lawmakers fail to approve a new map by the January deadline, the Fifth Circuit judges instructed the lower district court to decide on a plan for the 2024 elections, potentially without lawmakers’ input.

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