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US Supreme Court tells Louisiana to use congressional map that creates second majority-Black district

2 months 3 days 11 hours ago Wednesday, May 15 2024 May 15, 2024 May 15, 2024 4:25 PM May 15, 2024 in News
Source: WBRZ

BATON ROUGE — The U.S. Supreme Court told Louisiana on Wednesday to conduct this year's congressional elections with a map that creates a second majority-Black district that stretches from Baton Rouge to Shreveport. 

A lower court had said last month that the boundaries were created in an illegal race-based gerrymander, but courts have said over the last two decades that it is improper to make late changes in the election process. Justice Brett Kavanaugh had said in a ruling two years ago that "when an election is close at hand, the rules of the road must be clear and settled."

The Louisiana Secretary of State's self-imposed deadline for congressional district maps was Wednesday. Attorney General Liz Murrill had asked the justices to let the state use the most-recent map developed. 

A three-judge panel had tossed out the Louisiana Legislature's latest iteration, saying it relied too heavily on race when setting boundaries that would create a second majority-Black seat. Another federal judge had ruled in 2022 that two of Louisiana's six congressional maps should be majority-Black because about two out of every six Louisiana residents are Black.

Louisiana had argued that race alone was not the sole reason for drawing a district that snakes up the Red River. Political animosity between Gov. Jeff Landry and Republican Rep. Garret Graves loomed in the background, and there was the more-direct desire to protect the districts of House Speaker Mike Johnson and House Majority Leader Steve Scalise. 

Graves did not back Landry for governor. At a trial in Shreveport in April, a New Orleans lawmaker said it was common knowledge that Landry supported a map that would likely leave Graves as the odd man out if the number of Republican congressmen from Louisiana fell from five to four.

Louisiana's candidate filing period is in July, but Louisiana also has a process by which people who want to run for president much collect 5,000 signatures, including at least 500 signatures in each of the state's six congressional districts. With no boundaries in place, it was impossible to tell whether a candidate currently meets the requirement.

The most-recent map approved by legislators — the one with the Baton Rouge-to-Shreveport district — is similar to one struck down in 1993 on grounds that it was an unconstitutional gerrymandering. The three-judge panel that dismissed it had said lawmakers could have until June 3 to create a new map, or it would impose one on the state.

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