Georgia loses court bid to derail redistricting lawsuit: What it means for voters

Georgia loses court bid to derail redistricting lawsuit: What it means for voters
Rob Crandall /

A federal court has dismissed the state of Georgia’s bid to dismiss a lawsuit challenging state House and Senate district lines the Republican-controlled General Assembly drew two years ago based on the 2020 census.

The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU’s Georgia chapter are arguing the maps deny Black voters an equal opportunity to participate in the political process. U.S. District Judge Steve Jones has set a Sept. 5 hearing date in the case.

“Georgia’s state legislative maps dilute the voting strength of Black Georgians in violation of the Voting Rights Act,” said Sophia Lin Lakin, co-director of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project. “The maps rob Black voters of the right to engage in politics with equal dignity and equal opportunity. This ruling is a victory, and we look forward to proving our case at trial.”

In rejecting the state’s request for a summary judgment dismissing the lawsuit, Jones wrote that it’s too easy for such a step.

“Material questions of fact remain as to all aspects of Plaintiffs’ claims, and the Court cannot rule for Defendant without making factual determinations, weighing evidence, and assessing the credibility of the experts,” Jones wrote. “Unlike on a motion for a preliminary injunction, these determinations are impermissible on a motion for summary judgment.”

Much of Georgia’s population growth in the last decade has come from an increase in the number of Black residents. Yet, the suit alleges, the legislature failed to draw district boundaries that reflect those demographic changes.

According to the suit, the General Assembly could have – and should have – drawn more than a half-dozen additional new Black-majority districts in light of that Black population growth.

Jones dismissed the lawsuit the first time he heard the case, in March of last year. He declared the May 2022 party primaries were too close at hand for the court to change the maps at that time.

However, that ruling left the lawsuit alive ahead of the 2024 elections.

Voting rights advocates have successfully challenged redistricting maps recently in several states. Congressional maps are expected to be redrawn in time for the 2024 elections in Alabama and Louisiana after federal courts found maps adopted by those states’ legislatures violated the Voting Rights Act.

A federal court has also ordered South Carolina to redraw its congressional map after concluding that one district was an unconstitutional racial gerrymander.

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