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Judge Tells Legislators to Redraw Georgia’s Political Maps

Credit: Stephen Fowler/GPB

A federal judge ruled Thursday that Georgia’s Republican-drawn state legislature and Congressional district boundaries violate the Voting Rights Act by failing to have enough majority-Black districts, ordering new maps to be created by Dec. 8.

The 516-page order from Judge Steve Jones could see the state’s Congressional delegation add back a Democratic district eliminated by the GOP in 2021 and add more Democratic seats in the state House and Senate.

“The Court commends Georgia for the great strides that it has made to increase the political opportunities of Black voters in the 58 years since the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965,” he wrote. “Despite these great gains, the Court determines that in certain areas of the State, the political process is not equally open to Black voters.”

Jones found five of Georgia’s 14 Congressional districts violate the Voting Rights Act, as well as 10 of Georgia’s 56 Senate districts and 11 of its 180 House districts.

The ruling orders lawmakers to create new majority-Black districts in several areas: a U.S. House seat and state House seat in Atlanta’s western suburbs, two Senate seats and two House seats in Atlanta’s southern suburbs, and two House districts around Macon.

Judge Jones ruled against arguments made by plaintiffs in the lawsuit against the maps that additional majority-Black seats are needed to in east Georgia and southwest Georgia, as well as proposed majority-Black districts with specific boundaries south of Atlanta.

Republicans currently have a 9-5 majority in the state’s Congressional delegation, a 33-23 majority in the Senate and a 102-78 advantage in the House, and the ruling would likely shrink those margins further. Because of the redistricting principles around districts having similar numbers of people in them, it is possible that virtually every district across Georgia’s three maps will see at least some boundaries change.

Georgia’s population grew by more than one million over the last decade, driven mainly by nonwhite residents flocking to the metro Atlanta area. The state’s demographics also saw a decline in white voter share, but the Republican-led General Assembly crafted political maps that did not reflect that reality.

Before the 2021 maps were signed into law, Georgia had eight Republican U.S. House representatives and six Democrats. But now there are nine Republican-majority districts to the Democrats’ five, after lawmakers changed Rep. Lucy McBath’s then-district in Atlanta’s northern suburbs to one that overwhelmingly supported Republicans. McBath ran for re-election in a different district that still leaned Democratic, and Republican Rich McCormick won her old seat.

Jones wrote that the current U.S. House maps “in effect dilutes and diminishes the Black population’s voting power in that area of the state.”

Now, with a razor-thin margin in the U.S. House, the potential additional seat that will likely go to a Democrat could help determine control of the chamber in 2024.

This story comes to Flagpole through a reporting partnership with GPB News, a non-profit newsroom covering the state of Georgia.