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Lafayette will vote in two congressional districts this fall

A man with glasses standing at a podium flanked by flags
North Lafayette, currently part of U.S. Rep. Clay Higgins' 3rd Congressional District, will be carved out into a new majority Black district. Photo courtesy the Acadiana Advocate

The map is set for this fall’s congressional elections, splitting Lafayette between two districts. But the fight over Louisiana’s second Black district may not be over. 

Louisiana will have two majority-Black congressional districts this fall after the U.S. Supreme Court halted a challenge to the congressional map passed by the state Legislature in a special session at the start of this year. The Supreme Court decided it was too close to the Nov. 5 election to change voters’ congressional districts.

The map reworks Republican Rep. Garret Graves’ district to cover Black communities from Shreveport to Baton Rouge, slicing off Lafayette’s majority-Black Northside on its path across the state. See an interactive version here

It’s the result of a years-long lawsuit to add a second majority-Black district following the state’s 2020 census, which determined that Black residents accounted for roughly a third of the state’s population. That made Louisiana’s single majority-Black congressional district (out of six) under-representative, federal judges determined in 2022, likely a violation of the federal Voting Rights Act, which protects minority voting power.

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But the new map was almost thrown out. On April 30, two Lafayette federal judges found the new map violated the 14th Amendment by focusing predominantly on race. They issued an order prohibiting it from being used in any election, pointing to the “tension” between the Voting Rights Act and the amendment’s Equal Protection Clause that opponents have since criticized. 

“[This] decision creates chaos and confusion and is a slap in the face to Black voters who have already gone through one congressional election under a map that dilutes their votes,” said NAACP Legal Defense Fund Redistricting Manager Stuart Naifeh after the April ruling. “The law is clear that states must abide by the Voting Rights Act and can properly consider race when doing so, as the Supreme Court told us just last year.”

The Supreme Court’s 6-3 decision preserves the map for now but leaves its ultimate fate unsure as the court opted not to entertain an appeal of the Lafayette judges’ ruling until after the Nov. 5 congressional election. But the case could have major implications for the future of the Voting Rights Act if the Supreme Court does take it up in the future. 

Splitting Lafayette likely won’t affect its current congressman, Clay Higgins, but it will add another representative for the city to Louisiana’s congressional delegation, bolstering Lafayette’s headcount on Capitol Hill.

Republicans hold a slim four-vote majority in the U.S. House of Representatives, which would be further eroded by replacing one of Louisiana’s Republicans with a presumably Democratic representative from the new majority-Black district. 

Weakening the Voting Rights Act could have widespread implications around the country, as it has been repeatedly used to protect minority voting power, particularly in the South, since it was passed in 1965.

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