A challenge to at-large voting in Terrebonne Parish’s state district courts continues after a federal judge struck down the state’s request to dismiss the suit brought by the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. The state sought to have the suit dismissed under the Eleventh Amendment, which generally prohibits private citizens from bringing suits against states, and by extension state officials in their official capacity. However, the U.S. Supreme Court carved out an exception to the Amendment’s immunity in certain circumstances provided the complaint alleges a violation of federal law. In this case, the Louisiana district court found that because the suit alleges that federal law, the Voting Rights Act and the Fourteenth and Fifteenth amendments of the Constitution, has been violated, the state is precluded from immunity under the Eleventh Amendment.
The Legal Defense Fund says that the practice of at-large voting in Terrebonne discriminates against the parish’s black voters by diluting their strength.
The suit seeks to force the parish to change the voting system to a district-based method, similar to the one used for parish council and school board elections. The plaintiffs want to install five single-member districts for judges, with one being specifically for minority voters that includes parts of east and west Houma, Schriever and Gray.