Terrebonne Parish Branch NAACP, et al. v. Jindal, et al.

In civil action suit Terrebonne Parish Branch NAACP, et al. v. Jindal, et al., Louisiana’s 32nd Judicial District Court ruled that “at-large voting for the 32nd JDC deprives black voters of the equal opportunity to elect candidates of their choice” and that at-large voting has “been maintained for that purpose” (Terrebonne, 2017). This is of great significance to the parish of Terrebonne, as they have never elected a black judge except when he ran unopposed. Past Terrebonne elected judges have included white men such as Judge Ellender, who—even after dressing in an orange jumpsuit, afro wig, and blackface—was “reelected without opposition” (Terrebonne, 2017).

The two claims made by the Terrebonne Parish Branch NAACP were 1) “at-large voting for the 32nd JDC has a discriminatory or dilutive effect” and 2) “at-large voting for the 32nd JDC has been maintained for a discriminatory purpose” (Terrebonne, 2017). The Court addressed the first claim in two parts. First, it considered whether the claim satisfied the three Gingles preconditions. Then, it examined whether the practice of at-large voting “impair[ed] the ability of minority voters to participate equally in the political process and to elect a representative of their choice” (section 2a VRA), as demonstrated by “the existence of racially polarized voting and the extent to which minorities are elected to public office” (Clark, 1996).

With all three Gingles preconditions satisfied—“numerosity and compactness,” significant patterns of voting uniformity among the minority voting population, and non-minority voting “as a bloc to defeat the minority-preferred candidate”—the Court addressed its second consideration. In this matter, the Court found the electoral losses of black candidates in at-large elections could not be “explained by non-racial factors like time, money, or people” (Terrebonne, 2017). The Court also found that “the consistent pattern of black electoral defeat over many years and for many years” provides evidence “overwhelmingly in favor” of vote dilution (Terrebonne, 2017). Thus, the Court concluded that “at-large voting for the 32nd JDC deprives black voters of the equal opportunity to elect candidates of their choice” (Terrebonne, 2017).

With regard to the second claim of discriminatory purpose, the Court found the “timeline of events in this case shows discriminatory intent” (Terrebonne, 2017). The Court justified this finding through a review of legislative efforts for district-based voting and the requests for an additional judgeship. Evidence shows six rejections of district-based voting proposals between 1997 and 2011. Further, two requests by “white officials” for the addition of a judgeship was withdrawn “black advocates” asked the judgeship to “be elected from a subdistrict” (Terrebonne, 2017).

NAACP officials hope this case will be the first step in ensuring racial equality within the local government. Said Jerome Boykin, President of the Terrebonne Parish Branch, “This case is about finally providing an opportunity for me and other voters of color in Terrebonne to elect judges who are both guided by fairness and are accountable to us” (NAACP, 2017).

Citations:

NAACP. (2017, April 28). Personal interview.

Case: Terrebonne Parish Branch NAACP, et al. v. Jindal, et al. (2017, August 17). Retrieved February 07, 2018.

 

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