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Georgia Republicans Finalize District Maps to Comply With Judge’s Order

Republican state lawmakers in Georgia have finalized new district maps to comply with a federal judge’s order, though Democrats and advocacy groups say the new maps create one majority-Black district at the expense of another diverse district.

US district judge Steve Jones ordered Georgia lawmakers to redo their redistricted maps in October after a lawsuit claimed they violated the Voting Rights Act by diluting the voting power of Black people.

He gave lawmakers until 8 December to redraw maps to create “an additional majority-Black district” in west metro Atlanta. He warned “the state cannot remedy the section 2 violations found herein by eliminating minority opportunity districts elsewhere in the plans”.

Georgia lawmakers did not appear to heed that instruction. They created the additional majority-Black district in west Atlanta, but dismantled another district where Black voters had been joining with other racial minorities to elect the candidate of their choosing. The dismantled district is now represented by Lucy McBath, a Democrat. The plan ensures that Republicans are able to maintain a 9-5 advantage in the state’s congressional delegation.

It’s not legally settled whether districts with a collection of voters from various minority groups are protected under the Voting Rights Act in the way Black voters are, though critics of the Republican plan say it doesn’t fix the problem of diluting the Black vote.

State representative Sam Park, Georgia’s Democratic caucus whip, said on the statehouse floor today that “it’s self-evident that the Republican party’s primary goal is to maintain political power at all costs – even to the detriment of Georgia voters’ freedoms, our representative democracy and the rule of law”.

The new maps will require court approval. With candidates finalizing plans to run in these new districts next year, there’s a time crunch on the case. A 20 December hearing is scheduled to go over the new maps.

Georgia Republicans planned to appeal the case while also working in a special session to comply with Jones’s order.

The Georgia redistricting case comes as several other southern states contend with similar rulings to redo their maps after facing lawsuits over Black voting power. While redistricting happens every decade and maps are usually finalized in a year or two, some of these states have slowed the process to try to keep their preferred maps for the 2024 cycle.

Source: The Guardian