The NAACP Legal Defense Fund has filed papers in a Louisiana case that argues that the judicial selection mechanism violates the Voting Rights Act and the U.S. Constitution, according to an LDF Press Release
In the 32nd Judicial District Court, judges are elected at-large, rather than by district. The case shows that by electing judges at-large, black voters are completely silenced. As the press release states:
Under district-based voting, black voters would comprise the majority in one of five single-member districts for electing judges to the 32nd JDC.
Although black residents comprise 20 percent of Terrebonne’s population, are geographically concentrated within the Parish, and consistently vote together to attempt to elect candidates of their choice, no black candidate has ever been elected in a contested election in the 32nd JDC because of the at-large electoral system.
This is a big deal in the state with the highest incarceration rate in the world and a history of institutional racism. The judges that are being elected aren't only uniformly white, but racist. Leah Aden, an LDF attorney, says that "As recently as 2008, this structure resulted in a white judge’s reelection even after he was suspended for wearing blackface in an apparent parody of black criminal defendants."
According to LDF, over the past 20 years, "Black candidates opposed by at least one white candidate have received an average of only 8 percent of white voter support, while receiving more than 87 percent of black voter support."
As the system stands now, black voters don't have a chance.
White voters in Terrebonne overwhelmingly decline to cast their ballots for the candidates that black voters support. As a result, black candidates cannot win a parish-wide election under the current electoral system. "History shows that in Terrebonne and elsewhere in Louisiana, black candidates cannot win under at-large voting," says Victorien Wu, an LDF attorney. "Regardless of the strength of their qualifications, whether they run as Democrats or Republicans, or whether they seek judicial or non-judicial office, a black candidate has never won a contested parish-wide election in Terrebonne."
Judicial elections are the most important elections that no one ever hears about. Democratic representation is the basis of our governing system. Black voters are currently at the mercy of a racist system in this district as well as others across the state of Louisiana. I'll be following this case and hope to see an NAACP LDF assisted victory on behalf of black voters in Louisiana.