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Four facts you should know about the Supreme Court decision to revive a GOP-drawn voting map

A federal judge ruled earlier this month a Louisiana district map likely violated federal voting protections by diluting the franchise of Black voters in the state.
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Story at a glance

  • On Tuesday, the Supreme Court issued a brief order that allows a Louisiana U.S. House district map to stay in place. 

  • That’s despite a lower court judge ruling the map was likely in violation of federal voting protections. 

  • The justices also allowed the Louisiana case to be added to next term’s docket, with Ardoin v. Robinson scheduled for arguments in October. 

The Supreme Court voted Tuesday to reinstate a Louisiana voting map that was previously found to discriminate against Black voters in an unusual case that fell under the court’s “shadow docket” — an action by the court that does not go through the full process of briefing and oral arguments.  

In a 6-3 vote, the court’s conservative majority voted to keep a Louisiana U.S. House district map, despite U.S. District Judge Shelly Dick finding it was likely in violation of federal voting protections for diluting the franchise of Black voters. 

The justices’ decision pauses Dick’s earlier ruling, and the court will add Louisiana’s case, Ardoin v. Robinson, to next term’s docket. The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments in a similar case out of Alabama over a Voting Rights Act challenge.  

Here are four facts about the Ardoin v. Robinson case you should know: 

  1. Redistricting maps are at the heart of the case 

After the 2020 Census, states have been working on drawing up new congressional maps, including Louisiana. The original map in Louisiana, crafted by the GOP-led legislature, consolidated large numbers of Black voters into one majority-Black congressional district and dispersed the remaining Black voters throughout five districts. Voters and voting rights advocates were concerned the now-reinstated map did not accurately reflect the state’s population, which is about a third Black or African American.  Gov. John Bel Edwards vetoed the maps in March, which the state legislature then overrode.  

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  1. The Supreme Court is bypassing a lower court’s ruling 

Voters and civil rights groups challenged Louisiana’s new congressional map, and Dick agreed that the state should include two majority-Black House districts, instead of one. Dick ordered the state’s legislature to draw a revised map and use that in the state’s upcoming primary elections, scheduled for Nov. 8. 

Louisiana’s Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin (R) tried to stop Dick’s ruling from taking effect and went to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th circuit, but a three-judge panel rejected his request. 

That’s what brought Ardoin to the Supreme Court, where he petitioned on June 17 for his case to be heard. On Tuesday, the judges decided to hear the case while also voting to keep the map in place. 

  1. The case stems from the Supreme Court’s “shadow docket” 

The “shadow docket” refers to decisions that the Supreme Court issues that “defy its normal procedural regularity,” according to the American Bar Association (ABA). These types of decisions lack public deliberation and transparency and are typically delivered in short summaries. They also don’t include information about how or why each justice voted.  

In the Louisiana case, Ardoin petitioned to have his case heard by the Supreme Court—but Tuesday’s decision doesn’t include any details on why the court decided to take it up. 

However, it does include a dissent by the court’s three liberal justices who indicated they would have denied the application for stay—meaning they would not have granted the request to block Dick’s ruling—and they disagreed with the court taking the case without first waiting for the U.S. Fifth District Court of Appeals to weigh in. 

  1. It’s a pivotal moment for voting rights 

In Tuesday’s decision, the Supreme Court also agreed to hear Ardoin’s case in its next term, which starts in October—a few weeks before Louisiana’s Nov. 8 primary election. That’s because the court is scheduled to hear a similar case, Merrill v. Milligan, which calls into question new district maps in Alabama that a lower court panel also found to be in violation of the federal Voting Rights Act (VRA).  

Both the Louisiana and Alabama cases call into question the interpretation of VRA, which bans racial discrimination in voting policies, including forbidding congressional maps from diluting a particular racial group’s voting power.  

The decision in both those cases could have long-lasting impacts, as every 10 years each state redraws its political lines and their results determine the balance of power in Congress for the following decade. 

According to the Brennan Center for Justice, as of June 8, 43 of 44 states with more than one congressional district had finalized new congressional maps and 48 states had final legislative maps.