Thomas v. Bryant, No. 19-60133 (5th Cir. 2019)Annotate this Case
After the district court found that the boundaries for Mississippi State Senate District 22 dilute African-American voting strength and prevented those citizens from having the equal opportunity "to participate in the political process and to elect representatives of their choice" that the Voting Rights Act guarantees, the district court switched 28 precincts between District 22 and a bordering district to remedy the violation. The Governor and Secretary of State sought a stay of the district court's final judgment.
The Fourth Circuit granted in part and denied in part defendants' motion for a stay. The court held that the rule of construction, the text of the three-judge statute, its lineage, and the caselaw applying it all favor the district court's view that three judges are not required for a claim raising only statutory challenges to state legislative redistricting. The court also held that defendants have not shown a high likelihood of overturning the finding of vote dilution because their legal argument was at odds with "unimpeachable authority" from this court and their factual challenges must overcome deferential standards of review. The court rejected defendants' laches claim.
However, the court held that the legislature should have the initial opportunity to draw new lines for District 22 that comply with the Voting Rights Act. Accordingly, the court issued an order granting a temporary stay to allow the legislature to remedy the Section 2 violation. Finally, the court held that defendants have not demonstrated a high likelihood of showing that the district court's narrow redraw was an abuse of discretion, and there was no risk of voter confusion and no outcry from state officials that implementing the district court’s remedy substantially disturbed its election process.
The court issued a subsequent related opinion or order on August 1, 2019.