Chisom v. Roemer

501 U.S. 380



If an individual who is a member of a protected class has his or her opportunity to participate in an election impaired, their ability to participate in government is impaired as well. However, the inability to elect representatives of their choice is not sufficient to establish a violation unless, under the totality of the circumstances, it can also be said that the members of the protected class have less opportunity to participate in the political process.


The LA Supreme Court had 7 judges, each of whom were elected by the popular vote. The First District elected 2 judges, while the other five districts elected 1 judge each. Only one of the parishes in one of the district had a majority of black voters, despite the fact that the majority of the state's voters were black. Petitioners, representing New Orleans' black majority, sued the state's governor, arguing that the election procedure wakened the majority's voting power, violating the Voting Rights Act. The 1982 amendment prohibited a voting procedure which caused minority voters to "have less opportunity than other members of the electorate to participate n the political process and elect representatives of their choice." Trial Court and Appellate Court sided with the state of Louisiana, on the grounds that the Voting Rights Act did not apply to the election of judges. Petitioners appealed to the Supreme Court.


Was the 1982 amendment to Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act intended to apply to judicial elections?




In reversing the lower court's opinion, the Supreme Court held that if Congress had the aim, it would have specifically excluded judges and judicial elections from the amendment explicitly. Thus, the Court adopted a broad interpretation of the word "representative," finding that it included all winners of popular elections. Thus, the Court reversed the Appellate Court's decision.

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