Supreme Court blocks judge's order for Louisiana to draw congressional map with 2nd Black district
The U.S. Supreme Court blocked a lower court's order for Louisiana to draw a new congressional map adding a second Black district to its six seats, clearing the way for the state to hold November elections under the boundaries passed by the Legislature.
Louisiana's Legislature passed a new map in February that kept five of the six districts with white majorities, then overrode Gov. John Bel Edwards' veto of the map, which prompted a lawsuit from civil rights groups.
U.S. Middle District Judge Shelly Dick later ruled that the map violated the Voting Rights Act and ordered lawmakers to draw new boundaries that increased Black voting power.
After lawmakers failed to pass a new map during a June Special Session, Dick said she would draw one herself and had been scheduled to identify new boundaries during a hearing that had been scheduled for Wednesday in Baton Rouge.
But Tuesday's Supreme Court ruling, which mirrored an identical decision on Alabama's new map, means any new boundaries are on hold until the court hears the Alabama case in October.
Alabama's Legislature drew a map that kept one majority Black district among seven seats.
The Supreme Court's decision also puts a hold on a July 8 hearing on the merits of the case by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals.
Tuesday's decision is a ruling on the merits of the case, but it delays action until the case can be heard.
Edwards, who maintains a second Black district is required because Blacks make up about one-third of the state's population, called the ruling "more than a little disappointing."
"As I have always maintained, it is about simple math, basic fairness, and the rule of law," he said.
Legislative Black Caucus Chairman Vincent Pierre of Lafayette said "our hopes for change in the short term have been dashed."
"It is our hope that the court will come to rule in our favor to resolve the issue of underrepresentation for minorities in our state," Pierre said.
But Republican Crowley state Rep. John Stefanski, who chaired the House committee that crafted the Legislature's map, said he wasn't surprised by the ruling.
"It's a long process that's going to have to work its way through the court system," Stefanski told USA Today Network. "I still believe the maps are legal and are a fair representation of our state."
The Legislature's new map kept the same general configuration as the previous map with District 2 represented by Congressman Troy Carter as the only Black district. It is based in New Orleans and takes in parts of Baton Rouge.
Carter called the Supreme Court justices, which ruled 6-3 to block the judge's order, "partisan hacks."
"This Supreme Court is out of control in so many ways, but one thing is clear: It will stop at nothing to silence the voice of Black & Brown voters in the South and across the country," Carter said in a tweet.
Republican Slidell Sen. Sharon Hewitt, who chairs the Senate redistricting committee, said the ruling "halts the chaos created by Judge Dick's earlier order."
Qualifying for Louisiana's Nov. 8 congressional election is set for July 20-22.
Greg Hilburn covers state politics for the USA TODAY Network of Louisiana. Follow him on Twitter @GregHilburn1.