The ruling could be a boon for Democrats and Black voters if the map is used for the November elections.

The Supreme Court order cited the principle that states and localities should not change election rules too close to voting. | J. Scott Applewhite/AP


The Supreme Court has put the effort to redraw Louisiana’s congressional districts for a second time since the last election on ice, clearing the way for a map that includes two majority-Black districts.

The ruling is a win for Black voters — and Democrats, who are well-positioned to pick up a new majority-Black seat in the deep-red state.

The Supreme Court order cited the principle that federal courts should not order states and localities to change election rules or district boundaries too close to voting. The court’s three liberal justices — Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan and Ketanji Brown Jackson — dissented from the ruling. Jackson’s solo written dissent didn’t necessarily question the outcome, but instead she wrote she believed the high court’s intervention was premature.

The other two liberal justices did not explain their reasoning.

It is unusual for the liberal justices to vote in a bloc to halt a plan to boost the number of a state’s congressional districts minority candidates are likely to win. However, some analysts said those justices might be signaling concern about the high court’s recent tendency to block lower courts’ election-related orders under the rationale of not disturbing voting practices for a looming election even when an election is not entirely imminent.

Louisiana’s long-running fight over its congressional map is the most notable outstanding redistricting question for this November. A series of last-minute redistricting moves across the country ahead of the November election gave Republicans a slight edge, thanks largely to a GOP-led North Carolina gerrymander that all but guaranteed a three-seat pickup for the party.

In 2022, a federal court ruled the map drawn by Republicans after the 2020 census likely diluted the power of Black voters and ordered a second majority-Black district to be drawn. The state legislature appealed, but ahead of the midterm elections, the Supreme Court put the case on hold. In the midterms, only one of the six congressional districts in the state was majority-Black — and elected a Democrat. Around one-third of the state’s population is Black.

Supreme Court is seen.

The Supreme Court later restored that lower court’s decision, and the state had to redraw its map to give Black voters more power. Earlier this year, state lawmakers drew a new map that added the second majority-Black seat by altering the 6th District, held by Republican Rep. Garret Graves, to snake across the state from northwest Louisiana all the way down to East Baton Rouge. The redraw elicited criticism from House Speaker Mike Johnson, who fretted about Republicans losing a seat in his home state with the party’s already thin majority.

State Sen. Cleo Fields, who served in Congress in the mid-1990s, is the most prominent Democrat in the race for the 6th District. Graves, who faces an uphill challenge under the new lines, said prior to the Supreme Court ruling that he’s running for reelection in that district — and not against a fellow Republican incumbent — and did not think the map would survive a court challenge.

A group of self-identified “non-Black voters” quickly challenged the new map, alleging that it was an impermissible racial gerrymander. Just weeks before the state’s self-imposed May 15 deadline to have a map in place, a split three-judge federal panel sided with those “non-Black voters” and struck down the new lines.

Despite the apparent political benefit of another new map, Republicans in the state had raised concerns about implementing new districts on such short notice — or budging from the May 15 deadline. Secretary of State Nancy Landry warned that “the risk of rushed election administration resulting in errors is significant” if the deadline is not May 15. The state’s filing deadline is in July, and the all-party primary is held at the November election.

The judges seem “inclined toward creating more chaos in our Congressional elections in a presidential election year,” Republican state Attorney General Liz Murrill said last week. Murrill, who appealed the lower court ruling to the Supreme Court, argued that the overturned map should be in place for this year’s elections.

“The Secretary of State has consistently stated she needed a map by May 15,” Murrill said in a statement to POLITICO after Wednesday’s ruling. “The plaintiffs did not contest it at trial. We will continue to defend the law and are grateful the Supreme Court granted the stay which will ensure we have a stable election season.”

A second majority-Black district would be a boon for Democrats, whose influence has waned in the state.

In an interview prior to the lower court’s ruling, state Democratic Party Chair Randal Gaines pointed to the 6th District as a way to rebuild confidence and enthusiasm among Louisiana Democrats, but acknowledged that he did not view it as a guaranteed win come the fall.

“This opportunity has been hard fought for, and I think that it’s not going to take a lot to make the Black community realize not only that it’s vitally important for their future communities to have someone representing them that shares the same values … but the heritage that goes in,” Gaines said. “This is a 100-year fight that’s been going on for years to make sure that Blacks have equal representation in the political arena.”

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