The Supreme Court sided with a lower federal judge’s decision that Louisiana had likely violated the Voting Rights Act. Specifically, the decision that Louisiana is likely attempting to limit the power of the Black vote through racial gerrymandering makes it likely that voting rights advocates will successfully increase Black representation in the state.

Last Monday, the Supreme Court ruled against Louisiana, which had defended itself against charges that its Republican-led government redrew the state’s district lines in such a way to limit the impact of the Black vote. Plaintiffs had argued that, given that the state’s population is one-third Black, Louisiana had engaged in illegal and racially motivated gerrymandering by drawing district lines so that only one of the state’s six congressional districts contained a majority-Black population.

Louisiana likely used district map to limit Black voting power

A federal district judge ruled in 2022 that the Louisiana map likely violated the Voting Rights Act by unduly diluting the impact of Black voters, but Louisiana appealed to the Supreme Court to put that ruling on hold. Monday’s decision lifts that hold and dismisses the court’s earlier decision to hear the appeal. This means the case goes back to the district court, which could result in a likely conclusion that Louisiana did violate Black voters’ rights.

New majority-Black districts likely in two states

Monday’s ruling built upon a decision issued by the Supreme Court earlier in June that determined Alabama had diluted the Black vote in its state by creating only one majority-Black district. That ruling was a surprise given the court’s conservative majority. The Alabama ruling likely means that a second Black district will be created in that state, and Monday’s Louisiana decision was made in line with that earlier ruling. Together, these rulings may significantly increase the effectiveness of Black voting power in the South. Given the very thin majority that Republicans currently hold in the House of Representatives, adding two Black and likely Democratic congressional districts may impact which party controls the House after the 2024 election.

A surprise ruling by a conservative court

The Supreme Court’s rulings in the Alabama and Louisiana cases came as surprises amid a heavily conservative set of decisions. The most prominent and most controversial ruling from this most recent Supreme Court session has been the decision to strike down affirmative action in college admissions, while other rulings limited the scope of legal protections for LGBTQ+ individuals and canceled President Joe Biden’s widely promoted student loan forgiveness plan. These cases will likely overshadow a ruling from earlier in the week, in which the court allowed a federal court ruling that Louisiana had racially gerrymandered its congressional districts and denied the state’s Black population a second representative in Congress.

While the Supreme Court is currently dominated by conservative justices, the rulings in Alabama and Louisiana demonstrate that there are still hopes for voting rights advocates that some protections will be enforced. Thus, Black voters in these two states will enter the 2024 political cycle in a stronger position, with potential impacts for the nation as a whole.