Ketanji Brown Jackson Notes Key Question in Supreme Court Decision

Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson raised a key question in her dissent from the high court’s 6-3 decision on Wednesday allowing Louisiana to hold elections in November using a congressional district map that includes a second mostly Black district.

The Supreme Court was asked to weigh in after a series of legal battles over Louisiana, a historically Republican state, redrawing its congressional districts. After a district judge found in 2022 that a previous map drawn by GOP state legislatures violated the 1965 Voting Rights Act, Louisiana’s state House approved a new map in January that included a second Black-majority district.

The previous map would have kept the “status quo” in the state by having only one district with a majority of Black voters. Approximately one-third of the state’s population is Black.

Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson speaks on September 15, 2023, in Birmingham, Alabama. Jackson on Wednesday joined the two other liberal justices to vote against the high court’s decision ordering Louisiana to use a…

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Arguments over congressional district lines were later brought to a federal three-judge panel after a group of Louisiana voters, who identified as “non-African American,” challenged the redrawn map. The panel ruled that the new map was unconstitutional because it was solely influenced by race.

All six conservative Supreme Court justices sided with a group of Black voters on Wednesday to temporarily halt the panel’s ruling, paving the way for voters to have two Black-majority districts in November’s general election.

Pausing the panel’s decision will also allow the voters time to file a full appeal of the ruling in April. Republicans in Louisiana had also pressed the Supreme Court to intervene in the case to allow enough time to prepare for Election Day, including Secretary of State Nancy Landry, who wrote in a previous court filing that she needed a district map to be settled by Wednesday to “accurately administer the congressional election.”

The conservative majority argued that the district map should be left in place to avoid confusing voters so close to November. But Jackson, who wrote the opinion of the three liberal justices who voted against the decision, argued that there was plenty of time for a new map to be redrawn before the Supreme Court needed to step in.

“Over more than two years of litigation, separate groups of voters have challenged Louisiana’s congressional maps,” Jackson wrote. “… That careful scrutiny is fitting: The question of how to elect representatives consistent with our shared commitment to racial equality is among the most consequential we face as a democracy.”

“The question before us today, though, is far more quotidian: When does Louisiana need a new map for the November 2024 election?” continued the justice, who was appointed to the bench by President Joe Biden.

Jackson argued that there was “little risk of voter confusion” if a new map was redrawn before November. The federal appeals panel had ordered that a brand-new map be drawn by Louisiana’s legislature by June 3. If lawmakers didn’t meet the deadline, the judges would have drawn up its own map before November.

“Rather than wading in now, I would have let the District Court’s remedial process run its course before considering whether our emergency intervention was warranted,” Jackson concluded. “Therefore, I respectfully dissent.”

Lawyers who represented the Black voters celebrated the Supreme Court’s decision on Wednesday, saying in a statement that “action ensures that Black voters’ voices will not be silenced during this year’s critical elections.”

“While this is not the end of our work to defend that principle, it is a critical moment in our fight for fair maps in Louisiana and reflects the strength of our democracy,” added Sara Rohani, attorney with the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund.

Newsweek reached out to the NAACP’s press office for additional comment on Wednesday.