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Civil Rights and Race Relations in America and Their Impact on the Lives of African Americans
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Today, the NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, Inc. (“LDF”), the Louisiana Legislative Black Caucus, the National Urban League, and the NAACP State Conference of Louisiana issued a joint letter urging the Attorney General to reject a proposed redistricting plan for the Louisiana State House of Representatives. The organizations argue that Louisiana has failed to meet its burden of showing that the redistricting plan was not adopted with a discriminatory purpose as required under the Section 5 preclearance provision of the Voting Rights Act.
John Payton, LDF’s President and Director-Counsel, noted that “the Voting Rights Act was designed to block precisely the kind of discrimination that arose during Louisiana's redistricting process.”
Louisiana’s redistricting plan was adopted following strong protest from of a group of residents from Southern Hills – a community located outside of Shreveport. Southern Hills residents fought to oppose any configuration of a map that would have placed their community within a majority Black district. As one resident noted in his statement of opposition, “I do not like the idea of being forced to live in a minority area … Keep your hands off.” Ultimately, the state yielded to the racially-driven concerns of this group.
In addition, the redistricting plan was adopted over strong opposition from a majority of Louisiana Legislative Black Caucus members who expressed concern about the racially-driven goals of Southern Hills residents and concern about packed districts in the Caddo Parish area. Presently, one district in the region of the state contains a Black population as high as 89 percent.
Kristen Clarke, Co-Director of LDF’s Political Participation Group, said “the evidence shows that Louisiana’s State House redistricting plan packs Black voters at extraordinarily high levels and was calculated to minimize Black voting strength in the northwest region of the state.” Clarke noted that “the discriminatory purpose underlying the adoption of Louisiana’s redistricting plan threatens to reverse fragile gains that have been made to achieve political equality in the state.”