ABBEVILLE, La. — The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) filed a lawsuit today on behalf of the Vermilion Parish NAACP to block the Abbeville City Council-approved redistricting map that denies equal representation to voters, in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution's One-Person, One-Vote requirement.
The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana, Lafayette Division, claims the Abbeville City Council knowingly enacted a malapportioned map that dilutes the voting power of District B residents, which includes members of the Vermilion Parish NAACP, by packing them into one of four single-member council districts. The 2020 U.S. Census showed that the Abbeville population decreased by 1,000, resulting in an overpopulation in District B – well above the legal limits.
On December 20, 2022, the Abbeville City Council voted unanimously not to reapportion the district map in defiance of the One-Person, One-Vote requirement under the U.S. Constitution — insisting that the 2020 Census results were invalid and did not produce a “substantial variation” in Abbeville’s population. The council rejected multiple compliant maps presented by the Vermilion Parish NAACP and SPLC before deciding to leave the district map as-is.
“This country was built on free labor, the blood, the sweat, and the tears of our ancestors, who suffered and died for us because they had a vision of better days for their future generations,” said Vermillion Parish NAACP President Linda Cockrell. “Past generations have fought and struggled because they too had a vision. This generation and generations to come will not stop fighting because they too will have the vision that states ‘Chained and Bound’ no more because ‘we will break every chain’ by remembering that we are One!”
“I believe in fair and equal representation for all people,” said Marilyn Mitchell, a citizen of Abbeville. “Everyone deserves to have their vote count.”
The Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution requires legislative districts, regardless of location, to provide equal representation and voting power for all citizens. Louisiana law also requires municipalities to examine their apportionment plan within one year after the release of the decennial census to determine whether a new apportionment plan is needed. The lawsuit seeks a court order requiring the City Council to draw a map that complies with federal law.
“Abbeville City Council’s decision to not reapportion following the 2020 U.S. Census denies equal representation,” said SPLC Staff Attorney Ahmed Soussi. “This is an abuse of power that undermines the voting rights of the residents of District B including Vermilion NAACP members. We are suing to end this illegal and harmful practice.”