In an order in Ardoin v. Robinson containing no written opinions the U.S. Supreme Court has frozen in place a federal district court preliminary injunction which required the Louisiana Legislature to enact a new congressional map with a second black-majority district.
The Court is holding this case until it decides a similar case Merrill v. Milligan. As a result, Louisiana Congressional elections will occur this fall using the map the Louisiana Legislature drew which contains one black-majority district.
Voters and non-profits sued the Louisiana Secretary of State, Kyle Ardoin, following the state legislature’s adoption of a new congressional districting map. The black population in Louisiana is over 33 percent. They claimed the map “dilutes Black voting strength in violation of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 by ‘packing’ large numbers of Black voters into a single majority-Black congressional districts . . . and ‘cracking’ the remaining Black voters among the other five districts, where . . . [black voter] are sufficiently outnumbered to ensure that they are unable to participate equally in the electoral process.” A federal district court agreed. A three-judge panel refused to block the district court’s injunction.
Ardoin argued the Supreme Court should not allow the preliminary injunction to go into effect because it “ordered an [unconstitutional] racial gerrymander” by “fixing race as the sole ‘non-negotiable’ district-drawing variable.” According to Ardoin, “[o]ut of ten-thousand simulated plans using neutral, non-racial criteria, none produced even one majority-minority district, let alone two that the district court believes the Voting Rights Act requires.”
Ardoin also argued that the lower courts erred in not freezing the preliminary injunction in place because there wasn’t time to change the congressional maps. Ardion pointed out that “[p]otential Louisiana congressional candidates can qualify for the ballot by nominating petition on July 8, 2022 (moved from June 20, 2022 by the District Court) and the regular qualifying period is July 20-22, 2022—but it is impossible for them to qualify with no congressional districts in place.” Ardoin quoted from Purcell v. Gonzalez (2006), which states federal courts should not “swoop in and redo a State’s election laws.”
The Louisiana State Conference of the NAACP argued the Supreme Court should allow the preliminary injunction to remain in place for a number of reasons. First, it disagreed that race predominated in creating a second black-majority district quoting from the district court: “[t]here is no factual evidence that race predominated in the creation of the illustrative maps in this case.” Second, the district court rejected the computerized map-drawing simulation that failed to generate congressional district maps with any majority black districts because the expert “had no experience, skill, training, or specialized knowledge in the simulation analysis methodology that he employed.” Also, the simulations he ran didn’t take into account existing districts and “did not incorporate the traditional principles of redistricting required by law.”
The NAACP likewise argued that Purcell doesn’t require the preliminary injunction to be stayed because the election is still a long way away. “Louisiana does not have a pre-Election Day primary; absentee ballots are not mailed until September 24; and early voting does not begin until October 22, nearly four months from today.”
Justices Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan would have allowed the preliminary injunction to remain in place.