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Supreme Court allows Louisiana to use congressional map with second majority-Black district

The court's decision is the latest twist in a long-running battle over the state's congressional map.
People vote in booths with an image of MLK Jr in the background in 2016
Louisiana's congressional map has been the subject of intense litigation, with the original effort ruled to be a racial gerrymander.Gerald Herbert / AP file

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Wednesday paved the way for Louisiana to use a congressional map in this year's election that includes two majority-Black districts.

The court granted emergency requests filed by an unlikely alliance of Republican state officials and civil rights groups, who were united in asking the high court to block a lower court ruling that invalidated the most recently drawn map. State officials had said they needed to have the map finalized by Wednesday to meet bureaucratic deadlines and avoid "disarray."

Black voters have historically voted for Democrats, and a map with two majority-Black districts could give them an opportunity to pick up a seat, which could help them regain control of the closely divided House of Representatives.

The court's three liberal justices dissented, with Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson writing that the state still had time to draw a map that would address the various legal questions that have been raised. The court has a 6-3 conservative majority.

"There is little risk of voter confusion from a new map being imposed this far out from the November election," Jackson wrote.

The liberal justices have objected in previous cases when the court has acted to block changes to district maps or election laws in an election year, often in ways that benefited Republicans.

Internal divisions on that issue flared in 2022 when the court blocked a ruling that invalidated a congressional district map in Alabama.

Then, conservative Justice Brett Kavanaugh defended the move, saying it was a "bedrock tenet" of election law that "the rules of the road must be clear and settled in an election year."

The majority did not explain in detail its reasoning in Wednesday's decision.

Louisiana’s map has been the subject of intense litigation, with the state’s original effort ruled to be a racial gerrymander. Using the Legislature’s original map, Republicans won five of the six districts in the 2022 elections.

That map was subsequently redrawn after the Supreme Court last summer unexpectedly buttressed the federal Voting Rights Act by ruling that the similar congressional map in Alabama, the same one it had previously allowed to be used in 2022, discriminated against Black voters.

But after the new Louisiana map was drawn, a new group of plaintiffs who are each described in court papers as “non-African American” brought a legal challenge saying it violated the Constitution’s 14th Amendment, which ensures the law applies equally for everyone. Those plaintiffs argued that drawing a second majority-Black district was itself a form of discrimination against non-Black voters.

A federal court struck the new map down, but with time running out to finalize the congressional districts before this year’s elections, state officials told the Supreme Court that it was essential to “avoid chaos and confusion.”

The plaintiffs in the new case said the state’s deadlines were “hopelessly arbitrary,” in part because there is no spring primary election.

Louisiana does not have traditional primary elections like those in other states; instead, all candidates appear on the Election Day ballot in what is known as a “jungle primary.” The state recently revised its election laws, with more party primaries like those in other states set to be introduced in 2026.

Advocates for the latest Louisiana map welcomed Wednesday's order by the Supreme Court.

“Today’s Supreme Court action ensures that Black voters’ voices will not be silenced during this year’s critical elections,” Sara Rohani, redistricting fellow for the Legal Defense Fund, said in a statement. “The Voting Rights Act requires Louisiana to have a map where Black voters have a fair opportunity to elect candidates of choice. While this is not the end of our work to defend that principle, it is a critical moment in our fight for fair maps in Louisiana and reflects the strength of our democracy.”