Louisiana could get 2nd majority-Black congressional district after SCOTUS decision

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(WASHINGTON) -- The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday allowed a case involving Louisiana's House map to move forward with review by a lower court ahead of the 2024 elections. That raises the possibility that lawmakers will have to draw a second majority-Black district in a state where Black people make up a third of the population.

The order by the high court comes only a few weeks after it decided, in a separate 5-4 ruling, that Alabama's current House map packs too many Black voters into just one congressional district, thereby diluting their power relative to their share of the population and violating the Voting Rights Act (VRA).

More than a quarter of Alabama residents are Black.

Monday's decision directs the Louisiana legal battle to proceed before the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals before next year's congressional races.

A district judge originally ruled that Louisiana's House map -- which the state's Republican-controlled Legislature passed over Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards' veto -- violated the VRA and lawmakers were ordered to create a second majority-Black district, out of six total districts.

The state's top election official, Republican Kyle Ardoin, appealed the district judge's ruling. Louisiana Republicans have disputed that they are diluting the power of Black voters.

Louisiana Assistant Attorney General Angelique Freel said Monday that the state will continue to advocate for its original maps: "Our job is to defend what the Legislature passed, and we trust the 5th Circuit will review the merits in accordance with the law."

Ardoin's office declined to comment to ABC News because the case is pending.

While the 5th Circuit is seen as conservative and may not rule as favorably as the district court did, Democrats hailed the order from the Supreme Court, touting it as a victory for "fair representation" in Congress.

"Today's Supreme Court order means the people of Louisiana are one step closer to achieving fair representation in Congress that better reflects the state's diversity and reaffirms that the voices of Black voters matter," Washington Rep. Suzan DelBene, the chair of House Democrats' campaign arm, said in a statement.

The governor echoed that.

"Louisiana can and should have a congressional map that represents our voting population, which is one-third Black. As I have consistently stated, this is about simple math, basic fairness, and the rule of law," Edwards said in a statement. "I am confident we will have a fair map in the near future."

The Supreme Court decisions on state congressional maps come as Democrats gear up for a concerted effort to retake the House in 2024 after Republicans won a five-seat majority in the chamber during the 2022 midterms.

Beyond Alabama and Louisiana, where Democrats now see opportunities to win races in new Black districts, Democrats are also bullish on victories in cases regarding congressional maps in Georgia and one in South Carolina, which is focused on the 14th and 15th Amendments, rather than the VRA, but won't be heard until the Supreme Court's next term.

New York Democrats, who dominate the state government there, are also hopeful that they will be able to redraw their own maps before the 2024 cycle.

"It feels great on a democracy level that people are not going to be silenced," one House Democratic strategist told ABC News after the Alabama ruling earlier this month. "On the other on hand, electorally, you can't help but be happy about it. It's always a good thing when you're going to know you're going to pick up more seats at the end of the day."

Monday, June 26, 2023 at 3:46PM by Tal Axelrod, ABC News Permalink