Thursday, June 20, 2024

Federal appeals court refuses to reconsider ruling on Louisiana’s congressional map

by BIZ Magazine

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A federal appeals court refused Friday to reconsider its ruling setting a deadline for the Louisiana Legislature to enact a new congressional map after a lower court found that the current political boundaries dilute the power of the state’s Black voters.

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals denied a request by Louisiana’s Republican secretary of state and other state officials to have a larger set of judges rehear the Nov. 10 decision by a three-judge panel.

That panel said if the Legislature does not pass a new map by mid-January, then the lower court should conduct a trial and “decide on a plan for the 2024 elections.” A lower court judge later extended the deadline to Jan. 30.

The political tug-of-war and legal battle over Louisiana’s GOP-drawn congressional map has been going on for more than a year and a half.

Louisiana is among states still wrangling over congressional districts after the U.S. Supreme Court in June ruled that Alabama had violated the Voting Rights Act.

Louisiana’s current map, which was used in the November congressional election, has white majorities in five of six districts — despite Black people accounting for one-third of the state’s population.

Republicans, who dominate Louisiana’s Legislature, say that the map is fair. They argue that Black populations in the state are too dispersed to be united into a second majority Black district.

Democrats argue that the map discriminates against Black voters and that there should be two majority-minority districts. Currently, five of the six districts are held by Republicans. Another mostly Black district could deliver a second congressional seat to Democrats.

Louisiana officials cited a recent decision by the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in their petition for a new hearing before the 5th Circuit. In a 2-1 decision last month, the 8th Circuit said private individuals and groups such as the NAACP do not have the ability to sue under a key section of the Voting Rights Act. The decision, which contradicted decades of precedent, could further erode protections under the landmark 1965 law.

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