Supreme Court abortion

Associate Justice Samuel Alito sits during a group photo at the Supreme Court in Washington, April 23, 2021. (Erin Schaff/The New York Times via AP, Pool, File)

WASHINGTON — Legal scholars say the U.S. Supreme Court’s latest congressional redistricting decision made it harder for minorities to choose their U.S. House representative, which could impact Louisiana’s quest for two, rather than one, majority-Black?districts.

The 6-3 majority in a South Carolina case tries to end the court’s long struggle to balance partisan gerrymandering, which is acceptable, with racial gerrymandering, which is not.

Writing for the conservative majority on May 23, Justice Samuel Alito gave state legislators the benefit of the doubt and required the map's challengers to demonstrate lawmakers’ racial motivations. He demanded they produce an alternative map that showed a partisan goal could be achieved by moving White voters instead of Black ones.

Some scholars point out that racial gerrymandering looks a lot like partisan gerrymandering in the South, where neighborhoods tend to be as segregated as White and Black political preferences.

“The first way to understand it,” wrote Michael Waldman, president of the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law in an essay,” and I hope you’re sitting down: this ruling is good for Republicans.”

For much of the history of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, a state had to demonstrate that its election rules and maps didn’t harm individual voters in protected classes. Since the 1990s, the federal courts have shifted from?protecting?such voters to respecting state legislatures, said Joshua Douglas of the University of Kentucky College of Law, in a podcast interview at the National Constitution Center, a nonprofit study center in Philadelphia.

“The court now essentially says, ‘We want to stay out of this’,” Douglas said. “The answer is if you don’t like the voting laws that the states are enacting, you can vote the bums out. (That) rings hollow when the so-called bums are passing rules that make it harder to vote them out. And I think that is exactly the system that the court is setting up.”

How the South Carolina decision will apply to Louisiana is conjecture because the Supreme Court has only decided to allow Louisiana's fall elections to proceed using the Legislature‘s January map that creates a second majority-Black?district. That meant putting a lower court's ruling on ice. But the high court hasn’t agreed to actually hear the case.

Those who want to see a permanent second majority-Black district in Louisiana pin their hopes on a similar case out of Alabama, in which the Supreme Court in June 2023 found that state needed a second minority-majority district. But Alabama’s lawmakers had repeatedly defied federal courts. Also, the South Carolina decision, as the latest expression of this high court, is expected to be the one Supreme Court justices will lean on should they hear the Louisiana redistricting case.

If the high court doesn’t take the case, the justices could send it back for the lower courts to sort out using the new standards. Or they could do something else. 滨迟’蝉 the Supreme Court, after all.

滨迟’蝉 important to remember that a Republican-majority Louisiana Legislature in March 2022 approved district maps that had just one majority-Black district, in much the same way as the GOP majority did a decade earlier. When then-Gov. John Bel Edwards vetoed that map — saying a third of the state’s residents are Black, and thus deserving of a second district — lawmakers overrode him. So that map was clearly the will of the Legislature.?

But a series of lower federal court opinions prompted legislators to redraw election maps in January 2024 to include a second majority Black district — increasing the likelihood that Louisiana would send four White Republicans and two Black Democrats to Washington.

The new maps sought to protect House leadership by packing Black voters from Baton Rouge to Shreveport in a newly formed 6th Congressional District, which previously was more than two-thirds White. That configuration threatens the reelection of Rep. Garret Graves, R-Baton Rouge, who had fallen into disfavor with some prominent Republicans.

Then, a dozen voters who describe themselves as non-Black sued in February claiming that their rights had been violated by the state of Louisiana with a forbidden racially gerrymandered district.

A three-judge panel held a hearing in April?in which Black voters, who had intervened, presented evidence that a primary goal of the map was to put Graves in a difficult political position. But two of three judges found more compelling the notion that race was the primary driver of the second majority-Black?district.

The panel demanded that the parties deliver alternative maps that aim to configure a second, more geographically compact minority-majority district. That was all sidetracked by the Supreme Court stay in May.

But the court's new requirement is that an alternative map shows Whites could also have been gerrymandered to prove that targeting Blacks initially was racial rather than political, Michael Li, senior counsel for the Brennan Center’s Democracy Program, wrote in an essay. “This is likely to be a train wreck for communities of color.”

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