It's not just Alabama that will likely have to revamp its congressional map thanks to last week's shocking ruling from the Supreme Court. Several other states that have also been accused of discriminating against African Americans or Latinos may be compelled to follow suit, with Louisiana and Georgia at the top of the list. If civil rights advocates are successful, both states would have to create new districts where Black voters would be able to elect their candidates of choice, a development that would likely increase diversity in Congress and swell the ranks of Democrats in the closely divided House.
Litigants have in fact already met with success. In Louisiana, a federal district court judge ruled last year that Republican lawmakers had likely violated Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act by failing to draw a second congressional district that would allow Black voters to elect their preferred candidates and ordered the state to correct the problem. But just before the court could implement a remedial map in time for the midterms, the Supreme Court put the case on hold pending the outcome of the Alabama lawsuit, which rested on similar claims.
Prior to the Supreme Court's intervention, Judge Shelly Dick had given the legislature the first crack at drafting a new map, but Republicans failed to take action by the court's deadline. The judge then asked the parties to submit their own proposals for maps that would comply with the VRA. Republicans once again refused to participate, but the plaintiffs, led by the state branch of the NAACP, presented a plan drawn by redistricting expert Anthony Fairfax.
That plan is shown just below, alongside Louisiana's current congressional map (a larger version can be found here, and interactive versions of both can be found here):
By linking New Orleans and Baton Rouge, GOP legislators were able to pack a large number of Black voters into the 2nd District (shown in green) while scattering them elsewhere. That ensured that Louisiana's five other districts would remain majority-white and therefore solidly Republican, despite the fact that a third of the state is African American.
The plaintiffs' map, by contrast, separates the two cities, giving the 5th District (in yellow) a Black majority, just like the 2nd. As a consequence, both districts would likely elect the type of candidates preferred by Black voters—almost certainly Black Democrats, like Rep. Troy Carter, who represents the current 2nd District.
In light of the Alabama ruling, the Louisiana litigants have already asked the Supreme Court to revisit their case. Defendants unsurprisingly want the justices to overturn the district court decision, arguing that the Louisiana case differs from the Alabama suit in a variety of ways. But in response, plaintiffs have pointed out that when Republicans requested the Supreme Court pause the case last year, they claimed that the two disputes involved "identical" issues. If so, they say, then the justices should uphold the Louisiana court's ruling for the same reason it affirmed the Alabama decision.
Should the Supreme Court agree with the plaintiffs, then Louisiana will very likely have a new map in place for 2024, just like Alabama. We don't know if the district court would simply adopt the plaintiffs' map as-is, hire an expert consultant to adjust it or produce their own plan, or even re-open the case for new submissions. But whatever the judge decides, the final product is likely to resemble the remedial proposal above.
Georgia is on a similar trajectory. There, voting rights advocates have filed multiple lawsuits charging that the state's congressional map violates Section 2 of the VRA. In the case that's furthest along, a group of voters supported by the National Redistricting Foundation, a Democratic-backed nonprofit, say that the state should be required to create a new Black-majority district in the Atlanta area, which is home to one of the nation's largest African American populations and already has several such districts.
Last year, a federal district court concurred, saying that the plaintiffs were "substantially likely to succeed." However, Judge Steven Jones declined to block Georgia from using its Republican-drawn map last year, holding that such a ruling would be liable to "disrupt the election process." In explaining his hesitancy, Jones relied on the rationale elucidated in the concurring opinion written by Justice Brett Kavanaugh when the Supreme Court stayed the Alabama case in 2022 after the lower court ordered a new map be used for the elections that fall.
But those considerations no longer apply, and with the Supreme Court upholding Section 2 in their Alabama ruling, Jones quickly reopened the Georgia case. And as in Louisiana, we have a good sense of what new districts might look like if the plaintiffs prevail. While Jones never ordered a replacement map be prepared, plaintiffs presented a hypothetical map drawn by redistricting expert William Cooper to support their claims that another Black district could in fact be created in Atlanta's western suburbs.
Just below, we've illustrated that map, together with the state's current map. Both also include insets of the Atlanta region, which is the target of the lawsuit. (A larger version of the image below can be found here, and interactive versions of both maps can be found here.)
As the plaintiffs argue, the state could readily create a compact 6th District (shown in teal) based predominantly in suburban Cobb County where Black residents would make up a 50.2% majority. Such a district would also be safely blue, making it very likely to elect a Black Democrat. The nearby 13th and 4th districts would retain their Black majorities, while the 5th, where African Americans are 49.6% of the population, would be untouched. (All three of these districts are also represented by Black Democrats.)
While this plan was intended as a demonstration rather than put forth as a specific proposal for a final map, there's a strong chance that a new map would resemble this one if plaintiffs do ultimately win.
The possibility remains, of course, that the Supreme Court will find a way to distinguish the Georgia and Louisiana cases from the Alabama suit, but should a majority of the court continue to adhere to 40 years of precedent, then we could see these three states elect a trio of new Black Democrats to Congress next year.
Correction: A previous version of this post incorrectly featured an illustrative map submitted by the Louisiana plaintiffs earlier in the case. It has been replaced with the plaintiffs’ very similar remedial map submitted more recently.