Date Filed: 03/30/2022

Robinson v. Landry*

Challenging Louisiana's Congressional Map

Robinson v. Landry was previously known as Robinson v. Ardoin.The name was changed after Landry was elected as Louisiana Governor.

In a major victory for voting rights, on January 19, 2024 the Louisiana Legislature passed a map that creates a second majority-Black congressional district after being granted a final opportunity to pass a map before a federal court trial. The map comes as a direct result of years of litigation in Robinson v. Landry, a challenge under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA). Governor Landry signed the bill into law on January 23, 2024. This marks historic win not only for LDF’s continued fight for racial justice in preparation for this election year, but, also for all Black Louisianians, for the Voting Rights Act, and for our democracy.

In March 2022, LDF filed a lawsuit challenging discriminatory congressional redistricting maps passed by the Louisiana legislature as a violation of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (VRA). The lawsuit argues that the maps dilute the voting power of Black Louisianans by failing to provide Black voters an equal opportunity to elect their candidates of choice in a second Louisiana congressional district. Plaintiffs argue that the VRA requires that a new district is drawn before the 2024 and future election cycles. Section 2 prohibits state and local governments from using any voting procedure that “results in a denial or abridgement of the right of any citizen…to vote on account of race or color.” 

LDF, the ACLU, ACLU of Louisiana, and Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP filed the lawsuit on behalf of the Louisiana State Conference of the NAACP, Power Coalition for Equity and Justice, and individuals Dr. Press Robinson, Dorothy Nairne, E. René Soulé, Alice Washington, and Clee Ernest Lowe. The lawsuit was filed immediately after the Louisiana Legislature voted on March 30, 2022 to overturn Governor John Bel Edwards’ veto of the congressional plan passed by the Legislature in February 2022. Fair representation can lead to real change for Black Louisianians and help improve disparities in education, healthcare access, environmental safety, infrastructure, and more.

Black Louisianans make up one-third of the of the state’s population, yet under the maps passed by the Louisiana Legislature in 2022, Black voters’ representation was limited to just 1 out of 6 congressional districts. The map packed Black voters from the two largest and majority-Black cities in the state, New Orleans and Baton Rouge, into a single congressional district. By failing to add a second majority-Black district, the maps diluted Black Louisianans voting power, and deny them an equal opportunity to elect candidates of their choice. 

Black Louisianians have faced generations of discrimination in political representation. The new map with a second-majority district finally charts a more hopeful direction for the state and our nation’s promise of democracy.

Case Timeline

A District Court hearing on Plaintiffs’ Motion for Preliminary Injunction was held between May 9-13, 2022 during which Black Louisianians and civil rights groups presented their case for enjoining the discriminatory map, which severely dilutes Black voting power. Judge Dick of the Middle District of Louisiana heard from Black Louisianans who testified that the state had ignored the needs of their communities and their demands for fair representation, and from political scientists and demographic experts who explained how the map reduced the influence of Black voters in congressional elections. 

On June 6, 2022, the District Court ruled in favor of Black voters, holding that the map was racially discriminatory and likely violated the Voting Rights Act. A panel of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans agreed with the lower court’s ruling. The ruling required legislators to draw a new map with two majority-Black districts to be used during upcoming elections, while litigation continues. 

On June 28, 2022, the U.S. Supreme Court granted Louisiana’s bid to temporarily halt a district court ruling that had required the state to redraw its new congressional map to comply with the Voting Rights Act. The decision reinstated the discriminatory map. The decision put the case on hold pending the outcome of similar Alabama case Allen v. Milligan

On June 26, 2023, the Supreme Court lifted the temporary halt, allowing the case to proceed in the Fifth Circuit in advance of the 2024 congressional elections. The decision came after the court ruled favorably in Allen v. MilliganThe U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Allen v. Milligan upholding Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act was welcome news for Black voters in Louisiana who, for decades, have been relegated to a single district that has diluted the power of their vote and the ability to elect candidates of their choice. Louisiana’s efforts to limit the voting power of Black Louisianians mirrors Alabama’s, and the Supreme Court was right to conclude that Alabama’s map violated the Voting Rights Act.

On Oct. 6, 2023, the Fifth Circuit heard oral argument to defend the Preliminary Injunction Order. On Nov. 2, 2023, the court vacated the injunction, deeming a new map can and should be finally enacted for 2024 . 

On November 11, 2023, the Fifth Circuit further affirmed that the Louisiana Legislature likely violated the Voting Rights Act when passing a map that only provided Black voters an opportunity to elect their candidate for choice in one congressional district. After years of litigation, the Court has given the Legislature until the end of January 2024 to pass a map that complies with the Voting Rights Act. If the Legislature fails, a trial will proceed. 

On January 19, 2024 the Louisiana Legislature passed a map that creates a second majority-Black congressional district after being granted a final opportunity to pass a map before a federal court trial. The map comes as a direct result of years of litigation in Robinson v. Landry, a challenge under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA). Governor Landry signed the bill into law on January 23, 2024.

On January 30, 2024, a group of non-Black voters challenged the newly enacted map as a racial gerrymander in the lawsuit Callais v. Landry. Plaintiffs claimed that “race was the sole reason” for the passage of the map. Plaintiffs in Robinson quickly intervened in the Callais litigation to defend the rights of Black voters to have a fair and representative map in 2024. The map enacted in 2024 remains in effect while that litigation is pending. Trial will take place April 8-10, 2024 and a ruling is expected shortly thereafter.

More on Voting Rights and Redistricting

LDF Original Content

Unraveling the Many Costs of Discriminatory Redistricting

This piece explores how three states with discriminatory maps have shirked their responsibilities to their constituents, paving the way for the passage of oppressive legislation.

LDF Original Content

Understanding the role of race in the redistricting process as a means of ensuring equitable representation and political power is critical. 

Policy

LDF has closely monitored the redistricting process in key states to ensure that maps are drawn fairly and do not disenfranchise Black voters. This guide provides an overview of LDF’s work during the 2021 redistricting cycle.

Litigation

We’ve compiled answers to frequently asked questions about Allen v. Milligan and its impact on voting rights and redistricting.

Policy

LDF, MALDEF, and AAJC published a guide to the redistricting process, outlining how communities can get involved and advocate for fair maps. 

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