ATLANTA – Gov. Brian Kemp signed new legislative and congressional district maps Thursday and immediately was hit with a lawsuit claiming they’re unconstitutional.
The American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU’s Georgia chapter and a Washington, D.C.-based law firm charge new state House and Senate maps approved by the General Assembly’s Republican majority last month violate Section 2 of the federal Voting Rights Act.
The lawsuit cites the significant growth of Georgia’s minority population since the last once-a-decade redistricting session in 2011. On the other hand, the state’s white population has declined since the last decennial census in 2010.
Yet, according to the plaintiffs, Republicans failed to acknowledge that growth when they could have drawn at least a half-dozen new Black-majority state Senate or state House districts, effectively diluting Black voting strength.
“These newly drawn maps are a brazen attempt by Georgia politicians to undermine the political power of Black voters,” said Sophia Lin Lakin, deputy director of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project.
“There’s no legitimate justification for drawing maps that deny Black voters an opportunity to elect representatives who will fight for them.”
During last month’s special redistricting session, Republican lawmakers argued that Democrats targeted GOP congressional and legislative seats in the same way in 2001, the last time they controlled the General Assembly.
They also pointed to projections based on the new maps that show Democrats stand to gain at least one seat in the state Senate after the 2022 elections and a half dozen seats in the House.
While the ACLU lawsuit doesn’t address the new congressional map drawn by legislative Republicans, legal challenges to Georgia’s new congressional districts are likely to follow.
Unlike the legislative maps, the new congressional district lines are expected to add to the majority the GOP holds in the congressional delegation. By significantly reshaping the 6th Congressional District in Atlanta’s northern suburbs that heavily favors Republicans, the delegation’s makeup is likely to shift from an 8-6 GOP advantage to a 9-5 majority.
Kemp signed the new maps just before the legal deadline to do so. That gives the groups challenging the new district lines less time to make their legal cases before the March qualifying period for candidates for the General Assembly and Congress.
This story is available through a news partnership with Capitol Beat News Service, a project of the Georgia Press Educational Foundation.