Supreme Court Revives Republican Voting Card in Louisiana

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Tuesday reinstated a Louisiana congressional voting card that a federal judge said reduced the power of black voters.

The three liberal members of the court disagreed.

The Supreme Court’s brief injunction, which contained no reasons, blocked the judge’s injunction and granted a request for review of the case. The judges, under the injunction, will hold the Louisiana case while the court issues a similar ruling from Alabama in the next term.

The Louisiana dispute is part of a battle over reclassification that is unfolding across the country. Civil rights leaders and some Democrats say the realignment process is often detrimental to growing minority communities. Republican state officials say the constitution allows only a limited role for consideration of race in polling districts.

Louisiana has six congressional districts and about a third of the population is black. According to one measure in the 2020 census, the state’s black population grew 3.8 percent in the previous decade, while its white population declined 6.3 percent.

After the census, the state legislature, controlled by the Republicans, enacted a single-district voting card in which black voters formed a majority. Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, vetoed the map in March, saying it “just wasn’t fair to the people of Louisiana.” The legislature ignored the governor’s veto.

Civil rights groups and voters in the state have been charged to challenge the card.

Judge Shelly D. Dick of federal court in Baton Rouge found that the card violated the voting rights law by dividing black voters into a single district and dividing the remainder among the five other districts. Judge Dick, who had been appointed by President Barack Obama, ordered the legislature to produce a revised map.

A unanimous panel of three judges on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit declined to stay Judge Dick’s injunction while an appeal was filed, though it said her opinion was “not without flaws.” The unsigned opinion was joined by Judge Jerry E. Smith, appointed by President Ronald Reagan; Judge Stephen A. Higginson, appointed by Mr. Obama; and Judge Don R. Willett, appointed by President Donald J. Trump.

Another appeals court panel was scheduled to hear arguments in the case on July 8.

In the Alabama case, judges in February temporarily blocked a voting card that would have added a second congressional district in which black voters formed a majority in that state. The court will hear the arguments in the case, Merrill v. Milligan, when the judges return to the bench in October.

In previous decisions, the Supreme Court effectively dismantled Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which required federal approval of changes to state and local voting laws in parts of the country with histories of racial discrimination, and cut back Section 2 of the law. , limiting the ability of minority groups to challenge voting restrictions.

The Louisiana and Alabama cases also concern Division 2, but under reclassification.

Section 2 prohibits any voting procedure that “results in a denial or truncation of the right of a citizen of the United States to vote because of race.” That happens, the provision continues, when racial minorities “on the basis of the set of circumstances” “have fewer opportunities than other members of the electorate to participate in the political process and to elect representatives of their choice.”

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