“The Supreme Court handed down a brief order Tuesday evening that effectively reinstates racially gerrymandered congressional maps in the state of Louisiana, at least for the 2022 election.
Under these maps, Black voters will control just one of Louisiana’s six congressional seats, despite the fact that African Americans make up nearly a third of the state’s population. Thus, the Court’s decision in Ardoin v. Robinson means that Black people will have half as much congressional representation as they would enjoy under maps where Black voters have as much opportunity to elect their own preferred candidate as white people in Louisiana.
A federal trial court, applying longstanding Supreme Court precedents holding that the Voting Rights Act does not permit such racial gerrymanders, issued a preliminary injunction temporarily striking down the Louisiana maps and ordering the state legislature to draw new ones that include two Black-majority districts. Notably, a very conservative panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit denied the state’s request to stay the trial court’s decision — a sign that Louisiana’s maps were such a clear violation of the Voting Rights Act that even one of the most conservative appeals courts in the country could not find a good reason to disturb the trial court’s decision.
As the Fifth Circuit explained, current law typically forbids maps that dilute a particular racial group’s voting power, at least when that group is “sufficiently large and compact to form a majority” in additional congressional districts, when it “votes cohesively” and when “whites tend to vote as a bloc” to defeat the minority group’s preferred candidates.
Nevertheless, the Supreme Court voted 6-3 along party lines to stay the trial court’s injunction, effectively reinstating the gerrymandered maps. The Court’s order is only one page, and it provides no substantive explanation of why the Court’s Republican appointees voted to effectively strip Black Louisianans of half of their representation in the US House of Representatives.”
“Taken together, the Court’s orders in Merrill, Ardoin, and the Wisconsin case suggest that the justices are skeptical of current rules, which provide fairly robust protections against racial gerrymandering, and plan to replace those rules with a new regime that is likely less friendly to Black voters — and most likely to minority voters generally. None of these three orders was particularly well explained, but the pattern is that, in each case, the Court ruled against efforts to draw maps that expand Black political power.”
“Since the Dobbs decision, Wisconsin clinics have been proceeding as if abortion is now illegal in the state based on an 1849 law banning the procedure, except to save the life of the mother. However, state Attorney General Josh Kaul, a Democrat, has said he won’t enforce the ban, and Democratic Gov. Tony Evers promised to pardon any doctors convicted of performing an abortion. In fact, on Tuesday, Evers and Kaul announced a legal challenge to the 1849 ban. (Evers has also said he is considering executive action that would limit local prosecutors’ ability to enforce the law.)
But Kaul and Evers could both lose reelection in 2022. Evers’s loss would be especially consequential: Not only might doctors once again face jail time for performing abortions if the 1849 ban is determined to be operative, but also, if it is not, a Republican governor could join forces with the Republican-led legislature to pass a modern abortion ban. The opposite situation — Democrats winning the legislature and working with Evers to enact new abortion protections — is pretty much off the table, though. Wisconsin’s state-legislative maps are heavily biased toward the GOP, so Democrats do not have a realistic shot at winning either chamber.”
“The grinding battle over congressional redistricting is drawing to a close. And, contrary to expectations that the process would result in big Republican gains, the final House of Representatives map may well improve somewhat for Democrats.
The main reason is gerrymandering — redrawing of district lines for partisan benefit. Republicans built on their existing gerrymanders to try to expand their House advantage, but Democrats fired back even more powerfully with gerrymanders of their own.
Basically, Democrats saved themselves by resorting to a tactic they’ve previously denounced as not only unfair but downright unethical — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called gerrymandering “unjust and deeply dangerous” in 2019. But in the absence of national reforms banning the practice, refusing to gerrymander would have meant effective unilateral disarmament, ceding the GOP a significant advantage in the battle for control over the House.
Redistricting has proceeded like a tug of war. As state legislatures, judges, and commissions have approved new maps, creating more safe or swing districts in various states, the underlying partisanship of the median House district has been pulled in one direction, and then the other. The most powerful pulls came from either state legislatures that gerrymandered, or state courts that struck down certain gerrymandered maps”
“it’s entirely possible, perhaps likely, that Democrats will still lose badly in House elections this fall — the party has a small majority, President Biden is unpopular, and the historical pattern is for the incumbent’s party to struggle in the midterms. But unlike much of the previous decade, the underlying map may be at least somewhat less biased in Republicans’ favor.”