Federal judge approves GOP-drawn voting maps in Georgia

Republicans likely to preserve state’s congressional majority as maps play central role in 2024 House battle

Alex Woodward
Thursday 28 December 2023 19:53 GMT
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A federal judge has approved Georgia’s Republican-drafted congressional map, rejecting arguments from voting rights groups that the newly drawn boundaries illegally dilute the voting power of minority voters in the state.

The ruling from Barack Obama-appointed US District Judge Steve C Jones on Thursday marks a victory for GOP lawmakers who were ordered to redraw the boundaries for the state’s congressional and state legislative districts that violated the Voting Rights Act.

Judge Jones’ decision on 26 October ordered the creation of one new congressional district with a majority-Black voting population, as well as two new majority-Black state Senate districts and five new majority-Black state House districts.

But the new maps added one majority-Black congressional district west of Atlanta and dissolved a nearby district – currently represented by Democratic US Rep Lucy McBath – composed mostly of minority voters, who are likely to lean Democratic.

Opponents argued that the revised map violated the judge’s earlier ruling, and said that the state’s GOP-controlled state legislature could not remedy the issue at the expense of “eliminating minority districts elsewhere” and thereby diluting their electoral power.

Judge Jones wrote that state lawmakers “fully complied with this court’s order requiring the creation of a majority-Black congressional district in the region of the state where vote dilution was found.”

The judge’s decision likely ensures that Republicans will maintain a 9-5 advantage among the state’s 14 seats in the US House of Representatives, as lawsuits challenging electoral maps in several states could determine the balance of power in Congress after the November 2024 elections.

Democratic House candidates would need to capture a net of five Republican seats nationally to win back a House majority. Ms McBath will likely move districts in an effort to retain her seat in Congress in 2024.

A statement from Georgia’s Senate Democrats said that while they respect the judge’s decision, the state’s Republican-drawn maps “are an ongoing Voting Rights Act violation. Period.”

Democratic officials called for an end to “the cycle of partisan gerrymandering that allows politicians to choose their voters and prevents voters from choosing their representatives.”

Similar challenges to state-drawn congressional maps are underway across the US.

Federal courts repeatedly struck down GOP-led attempts to redraw Alabama’s congressional districts after the US Supreme Court found that a previous attempt discriminated against the state’s Black voters.

n Wisconsin this month, the state’s Supreme Court ordered new legislative maps ahead of 2024 elections, pointing to unconstitutional GOP-drafted boundaries. Other major cases are pending in Florida, Louisiana, North Carolina, Utah and elsewhere.

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