HOUMA — A federal judge has heard arguments regarding a minority judgeship case that strives to alter the at-large voting system to a district based method to create a minority district.
The Terrebonne Parish chapter of the NAACP filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in 2014 to change the voting system to include five single-member districts for judges, the Daily Comet reported. One district would have a voter majority of blacks and other minorities.
“A majority-minority district will enable black voters in Terrebonne to have an equal opportunity to elect their preferred candidates to the 32nd [Judicial District Court] and participate equally in the political process,” Leah Aden, senior counsel for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, told the Louisiana Record. “That remedy will provide black voters in Terrebonne with the same opportunity that white voters in Terrebonne have had in election after election.”
Aden said Terrebonne Parish’s judicial district currently violates the Voting Rights Act.
“The Voting Rights Act prohibits minority-vote dilution just as it prohibits schemes that out rightly deny access to the ballot,” she said. “In the case at hand, the method of election — at-large voting — for the 32nd JDC, which has jurisdiction over Terrebonne Parish, violates the Voting Rights Act because, in election after election, it allows the white supermajority electorate, which is approximately 80 percent, to veto the candidate preferences of black voters, who are approximately 20 percent of the electorate.”
According to the suit, the Houma Times reported, “across seven biracial elections conducted parish-wide and at large between 1993 and 2014, black voters gave an average of 87 percent of their support to the black candidates that they preferred.”
“In the same seven biracial elections, non-black voters gave an average of only 8 percent of their support to the candidates preferred by black voters,” the lawsuit stated. “This racially polarized voting— which is the essence of a vote dilution claim under the Voting Rights Act — over a 21-year period has led to the consistent and overwhelming defeat of the candidates of choice of black voters, regardless of whether those candidates have run as Democrats, Republicans, or otherwise, or for judicial or non-judicial offices.”
Parish President Gordy Dove opposes the creation of judicial subdistricts and filed a motion in the lawsuit in February 2016, but the federal court blocked that.
“This lawsuit seeks to create one district in which black voters comprise the majority of the electorate to provide them with the opportunity to elect their preferred candidates of choice to the five-member 32nd JDC,” Aden said. “This remedy is consistent with the use of majority-minority sub-districts for electing judges of the 1st, 4th, 9th, 14th, 15th, 16th, 18th, 19th, 23rd, 24th, 27th, and 40th JDCs, and numerous other trial and appellate courts, including the Louisiana Supreme Court.”
The case is in recess until April 27, according to another report by the Daily Comet.