The Supreme Court on Thursday upheld a lower-court ruling that delays an effort to redraw Louisiana’s congressional map, prolonging a bitter clash over the representation of Black voters in the state.
The order temporarily leaves in place a Republican-drawn map that a federal judge had said diluted the power of Black voters while an appeal moves through the lower courts.
Civil rights groups had sought emergency relief from the Supreme Court after a federal appeals court abruptly canceled a scheduled hearing aimed at drafting a new map for Louisiana. That map was to include two districts in which Black voters represent a large enough share of the population to have the opportunity to select a candidate. The appeals court said that the state legislature should have more time to redraw its own map before a lower court stepped in.
The Supreme Court’s order was unsigned, which is typical when the justices rule on emergency applications, and there were no public dissents.
Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, in a brief concurring opinion, emphasized that Louisiana should resolve the dispute in time for the 2024 election.
In asking the Supreme Court to intervene, the plaintiffs had argued that delays in the case could complicate efforts to instate a new map by the next election, leaving the state with a version that lumps Black voters from different parts of the state into one voting district, diluting their power.
By the time the Supreme Court issued its order on Thursday, a hearing date had passed. Another has been set for February.
The consolidated cases, Galmon v. Ardoin and Robinson v. Ardoin, are part of a larger fight over redistricting. State lawmakers in the South have contested orders to refashion congressional maps and establish additional districts to bolster Black representation. The outcomes could help tilt control of the House, where Republicans hold a razor-thin majority.
Weeks earlier, the court refused a similar request by Alabama, which had asked the justices to reinstate a map with only one majority-Black district. A lower court had found that Republican lawmakers blatantly disregarded its order to create a second majority-Black district or something “close to it.”
At issue in Louisiana is a voting map passed by the Republican-controlled Legislature in the winter of 2022. The map carved the state into six districts, with only one majority-Black district, which joined Baton Rouge and New Orleans, the state’s two largest cities. About a third of the population in the state is Black.
The case has reached the Supreme Court before.
A coalition that included the N.A.A.C.P. Louisiana State Conference, the Power Coalition for Equity and Justice and Louisiana voters sued state officials and said the map unfairly weakened the power of Black voters.
A district court, siding with the plaintiffs, temporarily blocked Louisiana from using its map in any upcoming elections. A new map, it said, should include an additional district where Black voters could choose a representative. The court gave the Legislature until June 20, 2022, to sign off on a redrawn map.
Louisiana immediately appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, in New Orleans, and a three-judge panel unanimously denied the request. The state then asked the Supreme Court to intervene.
The Supreme Court paused the case until it ruled in the Alabama case, Allen v. Milligan, which concerned similar questions. That essentially allowed the Republican-drawn map in Louisiana to go into effect during the 2022 election.
The court lifted the pause in June after a majority of the justices, in a surprise decision, found Alabama’s map had unfairly undercut the power of Black voters. The justices said the appeals court should review the case before the 2024 elections.