US judges have rejected a map that would have given Louisiana a new majority-Black House district

NEW ORLEANS– A new congressional district map that gives Louisiana a second majority-Black House district was rejected Tuesday by a panel of three federal judges, fueling new uncertainty over district boundaries as the state prepares for fall congressional elections.

The 2-1 ruling bans use of a map created by the Legislature in January after another federal judge blocked a 2022 map. The previous map showed one majority-black district and five majority-white districts, in a state with a population that is about one-third black.

An appeal of Tuesday’s ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court is likely. In the meantime, the ruling means continued uncertainty about what the November election map will look like. State election officials have said they need to know the district boundaries by May 15, and the filing period for Louisiana’s fall elections is mid-July.

The new map was challenged by twelve self-identified non-African American voters, whose lawsuit said the districts amounted to unconstitutional racial gerrymandering that discriminated against white voters while bringing together disparate parts of the state into one district.

Supporters of the new map said political considerations, not race, played a major role in the development of the new map, which runs diagonally across the state and connects Black populations in the northwest, central and southeast regions. And they said it ensures the state is complying with the federal Voting Rights Act.

The map includes safe districts for five incumbents: one black Democrat and four white Republicans, including House Speaker Mike Johnson and Majority Leader Steve Scalise.

But Garret Graves, a white Republican who represents the Baton Rouge area, sees his district shift from majority White and Republican to majority Black and Democratic.

Graves endorsed a rival of Republican Governor Jeff Landry in the governor’s race last year. Supporters of the new plan say this supports the argument that the new map was drawn with politics, not race, as the driving factor.

The ruling was the latest development in a long-running legal battle over redistricting, which takes place every decade to account for population shifts reflected in census data.

Louisiana’s Republican-dominated legislature drew a new map in 2022 that favored all six current incumbents. Then-Government. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, vetoed the map, but the majority Republican Legislature overrode him, leading to a lawsuit.

In June 2022, Baton Rouge-based U.S. District Judge Shelly Dick issued an injunction against the map, saying challengers were likely to win their claim that it violated the Voting Rights Act. When the case was appealed, the U.S. Supreme Court issued an unexpected ruling that favored black voters in a congressional redistricting case in Alabama.

Dick sided with challengers who said the 2022 map put a significant number of voters in one district — District 2, which stretches from New Orleans to the Baton Rouge area — while “cracking” the remaining Black population by dividing it over other, predominantly white districts.

Last November, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals gave the state a January deadline to draw a new congressional district. Landry, who was the state’s attorney general when he was chosen to succeed Edwards’ term-limited job, called a special session to redraw the map, saying the Legislature should do so instead a federal judge.

The new map does not resemble sample maps that proponents of a new majority-black district previously suggested, which would have created a new district largely covering the northeastern part of the state.

Opponents of the latest map filed their lawsuit in Louisiana’s Western District, which is dominated by Republican-appointed judges.

Those gathered to hear the case in Shreveport were U.S. District Judges David Joseph and Robert Summerhays, both of whom were nominated by former President Donald Trump, and Judge Carl Stewart of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, nominated by the former Democratic president Bill Clinton. . Dick was nominated to the federal bench by former President Barack Obama. Joseph and Summerhays voted to reject the new map. Stewart disagreed.