Court challenge filed after Kemp signed new district maps into law

(GA Recorder) – Gov. Brian Kemp on Thursday signed Georgia’s new political maps, immediately triggering a court challenge over plans that would bolster the GOP advantage in the state legislature and congressional delegation.

Lawmakers approved the new cards along party lines in a special session last month.

Princeton’s non-partisan project Gerrymandering assigned a B à la carte in the State House, an F à la carte in the State Senate and a C à la carte in Congress, citing a lack of competitiveness and lack of advantages for Republican candidates in each.

In Congress, Marietta’s District U.S. Democratic Representative Lucy McBath has been redesigned to be much friendlier to a Republican candidate, and she has announced her intention to run in the neighboring 7th District instead, currently represented by fellow Democrat Carolyn Bourdeaux, though both now live beyond the newly drawn boundaries.

Whoever wins, Georgia’s representation in Congress is likely to turn more Republican after next year’s midterm elections, with the tilt set to drop from 8 to 6 to 9 to 5.

It is not illegal to bolster a party’s advantage in the 10-year redistribution process to strengthen one’s party’s position, and politicians almost always do. But drawing maps that reduce the voting power of minorities violates the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and in a federal lawsuit filed Thursday, a group of organizations led by the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia allege the state did exactly that.

The ACLU lawsuit, which focuses on the state legislature, alleges that the state ignored the growing number of black Georgians represented in the 2020 census, particularly southwest of Atlanta and near ‘Augusta.

“In the southern region of Metro Atlanta and the Augusta area, we’ve seen explosive population growth in the Black community over the past 10 years, so new maps need to reflect that growth,” said Sean Young, ACLU Georgia Legal Director.

“But instead, the politicians who drew the maps seem to have frozen black political power as if it was still in 2010. The cartographers failed to create new districts that would give these new black voters a boost. additional opportunity to elect the candidates of their choice. “

Georgian Democrats were quick to respond to the governor’s signing of the cards, calling the cards “a slap in the face of democracy and the people of Georgia.”

“Make no mistake, the cards promulgated today are an integral part of the campaign to suppress voters from Republicans in Georgia, which seeks to silence millions of Georgian voices just for the sake of clinging to power.” said Scott Hogan, executive director of the Democratic Party. Georgia Party. “Republicans are terrified of Georgian voters, and they know the only way to win is to rig the system.”

Throughout the session, Republicans repeatedly dismissed accusations that their cards diminished the black vote as political theater.

“The maps the Senate has drawn comply with voting rights law,” said Republican Suwanee State Representative Bonnie Rich, who chaired the House Redistribution Committee. “I know because we worked together on this process. We have hired legal advisers, who are experts in this area. We are convinced that the cards comply with the law on voting rights. “

Cartographers limited themselves to drawing maps that included equal populations, and they prioritized respecting county and city boundaries as well as other communities of interest, GOP leaders said, and the work has was made more difficult by the rapid growth of the Atlanta subway combined with the declining population in rural Georgia.

But if the court finds the cards dilute the power of the black vote, it doesn’t matter that the Republicans holding the pen have good intentions, Young said.

“Section two has been amended to prevent politicians from diluting the voting power of black voters,” he said. “The reason the issue of intention is so important is that, generally speaking, it may be more difficult to prove that politicians acted with discriminatory intent, hence section two of the Human Rights Act. vote makes it clear that the intention does not need to be proven. “

The governor’s office declined to comment on the signing or the legal challenges on Thursday.

In a press release, the ACLU lamented Kemp’s delay in signing the cards.

“The disputed cards were approved by the General Assembly before Thanksgiving, more than a month ago, but the governor has delayed its formal signing until the last possible moment, dramatically shortening the time available to the courts to assess their. legality before the March filing deadline for the 2022 primary elections.

The ACLU Challenge is asking the court to block the state from holding elections under the new maps and to set a deadline for the legislature to adopt new plans or order an interim plan for the 2022 election.

“Generally speaking, when you can show that a card violates voting rights law, the Federal Court gives the legislature the first chance to fix it,” Young said. “But if there isn’t enough time for the legislature to fix it, or if the legislature drags its feet, then the court steps in and draws the map.”

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