How Louisiana’s state legislators decided the area surrounding Baton Rouge

The case is important in Louisiana, one of several “swing” states determining who becomes the next president. In particular, plaintiffs allege that the district is drawn in a way that dilutes black voting strength in East Baton Rouge Parish.

Jabs, an 18-year-old from the parish, and his two sisters have always been active in school and sports. But as they’ve grown up, the family’s interactions with public officials have intensified.

The family has been embroiled in a series of racial controversies, including a lawsuit filed against their mother that accused her of distributing white supremacist literature.

Now Jabs, his two sisters and their mother are facing a challenge in court. Earlier this year, they filed a lawsuit against the elections office in East Baton Rouge Parish. The group alleges that state officials illegally redrew District 2 to dilute the family’s influence in public elections.

Though they’re new to the fight, the Jabs family believes in fighting for their rights.

“[I’ve] worked for the past five years, trying to get my sister, [and] get our [family] off this gentrification map,” Jabs said.

It’s unfair, he said, that the family is forced to move around the parish so that their neighborhood is protected from gentrification.

“It’s only fair to everybody,” he said.

The crux of the plaintiffs’ claims, Jabs explained, is that the district boundaries were drawn up to protect a wealthy white family’s territorial rights.

If it weren’t for this district, he argued, “it would have taken the majority of the minority people who make up this district out of being politicians, out of being elected.”

“This district was designed for one white person to live in: my father,” Jabs said.

“He has the ability to get something done. He can introduce legislation, do everything he has been doing, and he’s not getting the recognition he deserves for it,” he added.

Joshua Hudock, the attorney representing Jabs’ family, told ProPublica in an email that the legislative maps are illegal because they are drawn to comply with the federal Voting Rights Act.

Voting rights activists have long alleged that redrawing legislative district lines is inherently discriminatory.

When the lawsuit was filed, the state of Louisiana said that districts should be drawn according to “how the area would look” if racial minorities had equal influence. But most of the residents of District 2, which consists of a mostly black and Hispanic community, aren’t from the same neighborhood as their white neighbors, he pointed out.

Hudock is hopeful that the case will help reshape the map of Louisiana politics.

“If we win here, this is a template to change the landscape of elected officials across the state of Louisiana,” he said.

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