BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) — After five long days, arguments have wrapped up at the Middle District Court of Louisiana in the fight to challenge Louisiana’s congressional map.
The evidentiary hearing for a preliminary injunction came to an end Friday. Civil rights groups argued the map is in violation of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and that it “severely dilutes Black voting power.”
President and CEO of the Power Coalition Ashley Shelton feels confident that Chief Judge Shelly Dick will rule in their favor and block Louisiana’s recently enacted congressional map from being used in upcoming elections while litigation continues. “I am hopeful,” Shelton said outside of the courthouse. “I have been here every day, sitting through all of the arguments and I feel really good about what was said.”
If the judge sides with civil rights groups, a new map would be drawn to include to majority-Black districts for those upcoming elections. “Minority communities have less voice now than we did than years ago, and that’s unacceptable,” Shelton said.
Shelton is joined with the ACLU of Louisiana, NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, and Voting Rights Attorney Jared Evans with the Legal Defense Fund. “It’s been a long week. It has been a very, very long arduous process to get here that started with the 2020 census,” Evans said.
“We are seeking justice for minorities in Louisiana who spoke out multiple times to have an opportunity to elect candidates of their choice. The Legislature heard and saw many options for a congressional map that would not continue to dilute the Black vote. This case is a chance to try and uproot decades of deep roots of injustice for minorities in the state,” Shelton said. “While Louisiana has been the state with the second largest Black population, it has struggled to provide fair representation in the democratic process. There is no protection for minority communities without representation. We cannot continue to deny the racial disparities that persist due to systemic racism. Justice can only be found by dismantling the systems that got us here. This starts in the electoral process. We have to take an honest look at the facts and work to provide a better foundation for the future.”
“Every election has huge consequences for our community,” said Mike McClanahan, President of the Louisiana State Conference of the NAACP. “That’s why we need a better map now — before primaries start. If Black Louisianans aren’t represented, it means we won’t get the public funding we deserve. This means less money for our schools, for hurricane relief — the legislature can’t keep shortchanging us. We’re not going to stop until our voices are heard.”
“The basic function of a democracy is fair and just representation,” said plaintiff Davante Lewis. “Louisiana needs a congressional map that reflects the population of the state and ensures every person is fairly represented. We can’t wait any longer for the Black people to be treated with equal dignity and respect — to be granted a representative voice in every level of our government.”
“Redistricting has a direct influence on which candidates get elected,” said LDF Attorney Victoria Wenger. “Every voter should have the opportunity to elect candidates that reflect their concerns and priorities. Instead, Black voters in Louisiana are having their voices drowned out by racially gerrymandered maps. The state legislature is once again trying to rob Black communities of the representation they deserve. This underrepresentation will last a decade, and its implications far longer. We can’t let that happen.”
“The bottom line is that Louisiana’s congressional map violates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act – the map is discriminatory and should be enjoined immediately,” said ACLU of Louisiana Legal Director Nora Ahmed. “Black voters cannot be forced to endure several more years of underrepresentation, which is why it’s so important that the Court fix this issue before another decade of harm is cemented. Louisianans deserve better. It is well past time for our state to turn the page and allow all citizens to participate fully in our democracy.”
A final ruling should be announced in two weeks and while Shelton and Evans are feeling confident, they know the battle isn’t over yet. “We fully expect to go to the fifth circuit either way,” said Evans. BRPROUD reached out to the Attorney General’s office, but they were unavailable to comment.