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Georgia’s New Political Maps Approved by Federal Judge

Redistricting Process Sparks Controversy and Lawsuits

Georgia lawmakers have redrawn the state’s political boundaries for the House, Senate and Congressional districts, following the 2020 census and population changes. However, the redistricting process has been marred by controversy and lawsuits, as several groups have challenged the maps in court, alleging that they violate the Voting Rights Act and discriminate against Black voters.

A federal judge ruled in October that some of the districts approved by the Republican-controlled legislature in 2021 illegally diluted Black voting strength and ordered the creation of more majority-Black districts. The judge specifically asked for one additional Congressional district in Atlanta’s western suburbs, two state Senate districts in Atlanta’s southern suburbs and five House districts surrounding Atlanta and Macon.

The lawmakers returned to a special session in November to redraw the maps and comply with the court order. They released several proposals for each map, with different approaches and impacts on the partisan balance of the state’s politics.

Congressional Map Adds a Majority-Black District

The Congressional map approved by the legislature in 2021 had 14 districts, with eight held by Republicans and six by Democrats. The map also had three majority-Black districts, which were represented by Democrats.

Georgia’s New Political Maps Approved by Federal Judge

The judge’s order required the creation of a fourth majority-Black district, which would likely elect a Democrat as well. The lawmakers achieved this by splitting the 6th district, which was held by Republican Rep. Lucy McBath, and creating a new 15th district that covers parts of Cobb, Douglas and Fulton counties.

The new map also changed the boundaries of several other districts, such as the 7th, 9th, 10th and 11th, to make them more favorable for Republicans. The map also moved the 14th district, which was held by Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, from northwest Georgia to southeast Georgia, swapping it with the 12th district, which was held by Democrat Rep. Rick Allen.

The new map was approved by the legislature along party lines and signed by Republican Gov. Brian Kemp. The map was challenged by several groups, including the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the NAACP and Fair Districts GA, who argued that it still violated the Voting Rights Act and the Constitution by packing and cracking Black voters and favoring Republicans.

However, on Dec. 28, 2023, a federal judge approved the new map, finding that it complied with the court order and did not exhibit racial or partisan gerrymandering. The judge said that the plaintiffs failed to show that the map was drawn with discriminatory intent or effect, and that the map reflected the state’s political geography and demographics.

State Senate Map Creates Two More Majority-Black Districts

The state Senate map approved by the legislature in 2021 had 56 districts, with 34 held by Republicans and 22 by Democrats. The map also had 15 majority-Black districts, which were represented by Democrats.

The judge’s order found that 10 of the state Senate districts violated the Voting Rights Act by either consolidating Black voters into a smaller handful of districts or spreading them across too many to have meaningful power. The order specifically asked for two additional majority-Black districts in Atlanta’s southern suburbs.

The lawmakers proposed several versions of the state Senate map, with different impacts on the partisan balance of the chamber. The Senate GOP map created two new majority-Black districts in Douglas and Henry counties, but also changed the contours of two majority-white districts held by Democrats in north Atlanta and Decatur, making them more competitive for Republicans. The map also altered several other districts to keep all incumbents intact.

The Senate Democratic map also created two new majority-Black districts in the same area, but did not change the boundaries of the Democratic-held districts in north Atlanta and Decatur. The map also shifted some districts to create more opportunities for Democrats in other parts of the state.

The legislature approved the Senate GOP map along party lines and it was signed by the governor. The map was challenged by several groups, including the Georgia State Conference of the NAACP, the Georgia Coalition for the People’s Agenda and the Southern Poverty Law Center, who argued that it still violated the Voting Rights Act and the Constitution by diluting Black voting strength and favoring Republicans.

However, on Dec. 28, 2023, a federal judge approved the new map, finding that it complied with the court order and did not exhibit racial or partisan gerrymandering. The judge said that the plaintiffs failed to show that the map was drawn with discriminatory intent or effect, and that the map reflected the state’s political geography and demographics.

State House Map Adds Five Majority-Black Districts

The state House map approved by the legislature in 2021 had 180 districts, with 103 held by Republicans and 77 by Democrats. The map also had 60 majority-Black districts, which were represented by Democrats.

The judge’s order found that 23 of the state House districts violated the Voting Rights Act by either consolidating Black voters into a smaller handful of districts or spreading them across too many to have meaningful power. The order specifically asked for five additional majority-Black districts in Atlanta, Clayton, DeKalb, Henry and Macon-Bibb counties.

The lawmakers proposed several versions of the state House map, with different impacts on the partisan balance of the chamber. The House GOP map created five new majority-Black districts in the same areas, but also changed the boundaries of several other districts to make them more favorable for Republicans. The map also moved some incumbents to different districts or paired them with other incumbents.

The House Democratic map also created five new majority-Black districts in the same areas, but did not change the boundaries of the other districts as much as the GOP map. The map also shifted some districts to create more opportunities for Democrats in other parts of the state.

The legislature approved the House GOP map along party lines and it was signed by the governor. The map was challenged by several groups, including the Georgia State Conference of the NAACP, the Georgia Coalition for the People’s Agenda and the Southern Poverty Law Center, who argued that it still violated the Voting Rights Act and the Constitution by diluting Black voting strength and favoring Republicans.

However, on Dec. 28, 2023, a federal judge approved the new map, finding that it complied with the court order and did not exhibit racial or partisan gerrymandering. The judge said that the plaintiffs failed to show that the map was drawn with discriminatory intent or effect, and that the map reflected the state’s political geography and demographics.

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