Georgia redraws congressional map to expand power for black voters, but legal battle still looms

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The new lines could, in theory, help tilt congressional control.

Georgia lawmakers recently returned to Atlanta for a special session to redraw the state’s political maps and expand the power of black voters in the wake of a court ruling that previous maps violated the Voting Rights Act.

However, the new districts approved by the Republican-controlled Legislature could face more challenges in court.

The special session was prompted by U.S. District Judge Steve Jones’ ruling in October that the current maps illegally diluted the power of black voters, and lawmakers had to draw additional majority-black districts in the state, including a district from the Congress more in the western suburbs. from Atlanta.

That extra seat could, in theory, affect the balance of power in Congress because the House has a very slim Republican majority and black voters in Georgia tend to vote Democratic.

But the new lines, passed by the Georgia state House and Senate and now sent to Gov. Brian Kemp’s desk for his signature, created the new congressional district by flipping Democratic Rep. Lucy McBath’s seat, casting doubt on her future.

McBath’s district, which currently leans Democratic and is a majority-minority but not majority black district, has now become a predominantly white, Republican-leaning district under the new lines, which observers say will likely maintain the current 9-5. split between Republicans and Democrats in the state’s House delegation.

It is the second time McBath’s seat has been selected during the redistricting process, although the congresswoman does not appear to be abandoning her political future. She also harshly criticized state Republicans, calling them extremists.

“I will see the judge’s decision on these maps in the coming weeks. Regardless, I will not allow an extremist portion of the state legislature to decide when my time serving the people of Georgia will end. “I will return to Washington,” he said in a statement after the maps were approved.

During the special session, Republicans argued that Jones’ order specifically asked lawmakers to add an additional majority-black district without eliminating an existing majority-black district.

Jones had written: “The State cannot remedy the…violations described here by eliminating minority opportunity districts elsewhere in the plans.”

Democrats say the Republican plan still falls short of the Voting Rights Act’s protections against weakening the power of racial groups.

Republican lawmakers have responded that their colleagues on the other side of the aisle are trying to gain a partisan advantage.

Jones has set a hearing for Dec. 20 to consider the newly redesigned maps. Some experts say the state faces an uphill battle to prove it complied with his order.

“That [the new lines do] “In the state, it’s basically about maintaining the same balance of districts where preferred minority candidates can win,” said Kareem Crayton, a redistricting expert at the Brennan Center for Justice. “If you’re the plaintiffs in this case, you’re going to say, ‘Well, look, what’s the point of suing if we’re basically walking away from this with no more political opportunities than we had before?'”

If Jones rules that the maps still do not comply with the Voting Rights Act, he could appoint a special master to intervene and redraw the districts, similar to a process that developed in Alabama.

The state appealed Jones’ original ruling, but that process likely won’t be resolved before next year, so Georgia will likely use its new maps for the 2024 election cycle, but could revert to its old maps if the state wins its appeal. .

Georgia redistricting battle follows states like Alabama and North Carolina, where congressional lines have also been challenged in court for alleged racial gerrymandering.

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