Louisiana’s high court a racial gerrymander, federal suit alleges, and part of a larger trend
The maps drawn for the election of the Louisiana Supreme Court are discriminatory against black voters, a civil rights group alleges in a new federal lawsuit.
The racial gerrymandering lawsuit was filed in Baton Rouge on Tuesday, the day before the release of a stark new report finding that the makeup of state supreme courts nationwide does not come close to reflecting the racial diversity of the country.
The plaintiffs in the Louisiana case, the state NAACP and two black voters, say only two African Americans have served on the state's highest court since the election of those justices began 105 years ago. One is on the bench now (there are seven seats), a time when the black population of the state is 32 percent, the second highest percentage of any state.
The suit asks the court to toss out the state judicial map as a violation of the Voting Rights Act, the 1965 law designed to ensure minorities can fully exercise their franchise, and to order the boundaries redrawn before the next election.
- 13 states have not had a Supreme Court justice of color.
- 24 states do not now have a justice of color.
- People of color make up nearly 40 percent of the nation's population but hold only 15 percent of state Supreme Court seats.
- White men are in almost half the state Supreme Court seats but make up less than one-third of the population.
The Louisiana suit alleges that if the seven judicial districts were drawn fairly, two would be majority-black. Now just one is.
In 1992, after the districts were redrawn in the wake of an earlier suit, Revius Ortique was elected the first black justice in state history. Two years later he reached the mandatory retirement age of 70 and was replaced by Bernette Joshua Johnson, who is also black. She is now chief justice.
The suit claims the maps violate the Voting Rights Act prohibition against any practice that results in the "denial or abridgement of the right of any citizen of the United States to vote on account of race or color."
One of the authors of the Brennan report, Alicia Bannon, said there is a cost when the diversity of the judiciary does not match that of the communities it serves."Our judicial system loses credibility with the public when the judges making the rulings don't reflect the diversity of the people affected by those rulings," she said. "Our courts can't function without the p
The paper trail has become the industry standard for giving voters and elections officials confidence that ballots haven't been hacked. Now comes another back-to-the-future move for boosting security and bolstering public confidence in elections: the return of the 10-sided dice.
The quirky toys found in many high school classrooms and role-playing games are part of a pilot program announced this week in Pennsylvania, which is joining a handful of other states in trying out a math-based system for checking the accuracy of election returns.
The "risk-limiting audit" searches for irregularities in vote tallies and relies on some seriously advanced statistical analysis combined with a bit of analog randomness, which is where auditors using those pentagonal trapezohedrons (the dice) at public audit hearings will get involved.
Indiana is not moving nearly assertively enough to upgrade its voting machines so they're less vulnerable to hackers, a nonprofit alleges in a federal lawsuit pressing the state to spend millions more before the presidential election.
At issue is the timetable for eliminating the direct recording electronic, or DRE, voting machines that are in use in 58 of the state's 92 counties. The complaint filed Thursday by Indiana Vote by Mail, which advocates for any array of proposals to give Hoosiers easier access to the ballot box, wants to force the state to replace the paperless devices in the next year with machines that produce a voter-verified paper audit trail.
Indiana for now looks to be among just eight states using paperless balloting in 2020, when President Trump will be counting on its 11 electoral votes. The state last went for the Democratic candidate for president in 2008.