The at-large voting system has left Black residents in Terrebonne Parish, Louisiana, for instance, with no ability to elect judges of their choosing for decades. That is, according to attorneys from the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund (LDF), who successfully sued on behalf of Terrebonne’s Black voters and the Terrebonne branch of the NAACP in August, arguing the at-large system violated Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) and the U.S. Constitution by diluting the Black vote in the parish (which Louisiana uses in place of counties).
The Louisiana plaintiffs filed the lawsuit to force what they describe as the creation of a majority-Black single-member district that would help Black voters choose a candidate they feel represents their community and push back against vote dilution.
Terrebonne’s method of electing judges is egregiously manipulative and out of step with even other parishes in Louisiana. Many other state courts in Louisiana’s judicial system, including the Louisiana Supreme Court, use district-based voting.
“In Terrebonne, the white population is about 70 percent of the population. If they are the majority and they don’t prefer the candidates of choice of the Black community—who are about 20 percent of the population—that 70 percent in an at-large system controls all five seats,” said LDF Senior Counsel Leah Aden in an interview with Rewire.
“Really, this conversation we’re having right now nationally is about white supremacy, and it is happening in Terrebonne, where a few select people want to hold on to a lot of power and they want to decide who sits on the bench, and they want to decide who works in the courthouse,” Aden said. “It’s a seat of power there and they were unwilling to relinquish a piece of it to the Black community and that led our clients for decades to go to the state legislature to introduce legislation to change the method of election. And they were rejected time and time again.”
“You can go to most jurisdictions [around the country] and there’s a case like Terrebonne that is percolating in the judiciary,” Aden continued.
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