The US Supreme Court has opened the door to the creation of a new majority-black district in the state of Louisiana in a closely watched voting rights case.
The top court lifted a hold on a lower court case that could result in Louisiana redrawing its electoral map.
Lower courts had ruled that the maps raised concerns that black voting power had been diluted in the state.
Nearly a third of residents in the state are black.
It is the second significant voting rights case decided by the Supreme Court this term. On 8 June, its justices ordered another southern state, Alabama, to redraw its congressional district maps to allow for an additional majority-black district.
Monday’s ruling means that Louisiana may have to redraw its US House of Representatives district map to provide more representation for black voters.
The Supreme Court justices implied the matter should be resolved “in advance of the 2024 congressional elections in Louisiana”. The case now returns to the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.
Individual state legislatures are empowered to draw the maps for their US House districts. But the process is occasionally tinted with partisan intent.
States with a dominant political party will often attempt to draw US House district maps to favour their candidates. Critics of the practice argue this can create disparities in voters’ power, including along racial lines.
A group of voting rights advocates and voters sued the state of Louisiana in March 2022, arguing their new congressional map would dilute the power of black voters and violated Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.
The landmark 1965 legislation was passed at the peak of the civil rights movement, after decades of southern states’ systematic disenfranchisement of black citizens.
The plaintiffs in the case, Ardoin v Robinson, cited this history in their complaint.
Plaintiffs argued that black residents made up a third of the state’s residents, but due to the new congressional map passed by the Republican-dominated state, they only had the power to elect a representative in one out of six US House districts.
In June 2022, a federal court blocked the new map and ordered the state to draw a new one. The case made its way via the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit to the Supreme Court.
Monday’s ruling paves the way for Louisiana to be required to draw a new map, which could allow black voters to choose representatives in two of the state’s US House districts, rather than just one.
Because black voters in Louisiana overwhelmingly vote for Democrats, this could favour the party’s attempt to retake the US House in next year’s elections.
Source : BBC