Federal judge OK’s new GOP-drawn congressional map in Georgia

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Washington — A federal judge in Georgia on Thursday approved a congressional map redrawn by the state’s GOP-led legislature after its original voting lines were found to be crafted in violation of federal voting rights law.

U.S. District Judge Steve Jones said in a 15-page order that the General Assembly “fully complied” with his October order that required the creation of a majority-Black congressional district in the western part of metro Atlanta. His acceptance of the new map, which maintains Republicans’ 9-5 edge for its congressional delegation, sets up the new bounds to be used in the 2024 election.

Jones also approved new legislative maps for state Senate and House districts, which he found were originally crafted in a racially discriminatory manner. The judge said in his earlier order that state lawmakers had to redraw two new Black-majority districts in Georgia’s state Senate and five new Black-majority districts in its state House. 

Jones had given the Republican-led General Assembly and governor until Dec. 8 to adopt redistricting plans that remedied the violations of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. State lawmakers convened for a special session in late November and passed the new congressional and legislative district lines, which were signed into law by Gov. Brian Kemp earlier this month.

The new congressional map finalized ahead of Jones’ deadline preserved Republicans’ majority for its congressional delegation and drastically altered the district represented by Democratic Rep. Lucy McBath, the 7th Congressional District. Lawmakers drew a new majority-Black district west of metro Atlanta, located in portions of Cobb, Douglas and Fulton Counties.

A group of voters who challenged the original redistricting plans crafted in 2021 renewed their objections, but to the newly drawn congressional map, arguing that the remedial plan itself violated Section 2 and violated Jones’ October order. The Georgia legislature, they said, reshuffled Black voters and failed to remedy the harms identified by the court. The challengers also claimed that state lawmakers violated the Voting Rights Act by dismantling the 7th District when there was no need to do so.

Jones’ rejected the objections from the voters, writing that while the General Assembly drew the new congressional voting boundaries to protect their majority “as much as possible,” redistricting decisions by a legislature “with an eye toward securing partisan advantage does not alone violate Section 2.”

The Supreme Court in 2019 effectively allowed state lawmakers to draw voting lines to achieve their partisan goals when it ruled that federal courts don’t have a role in deciding partisan gerrymandering claims.

The redistricting dispute in Georgia was closely watched, as it was one of several being litigating across the southeast that could have helped Democrats in their battle to regain control of the House in the 2024 general elections. In Alabama and Louisiana, Democrats could pick up a seat in each of those states as a result of legal challenges to congressional maps drawn after the 2020 Census.

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Federal judge OK’s new GOP-drawn congressional map in Georgia

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