Georgia Adopts New Redistricting Maps: But Do They Solve the Problem?

Georgia Adopts New Redistricting Maps: But Do They Solve the Problem?

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The Republican-controlled General Assembly passed new legislative district lines Friday over Democrats’ objections that they don’t comply with a federal court order that found maps lawmakers drew in 2021 violate the Voting Rights Act.

House lawmakers passed a new House map 101-77, voting along party lines. The state Senate followed suit, adopting a new Senate map 32-23 in a nearly party-line vote. The only Republican who voted against the Senate map, Sen. Mike Dugan, R-Carrollton, said he didn’t like either the GOP map or an alternative presented by Democrats.

In an October ruling, U.S. District Judge Steve Jones ordered the legislature to draw five additional Black-majority districts in the House and two additional Black-majority districts in the Senate to accommodate increases in Georgia’s Black population in the last decade.

On Friday, Republicans said their new maps honor Jones’ ruling.

“My primary goal is simply to comply with the judge’s order,” said Sen. Shelly Echols, R-Gainesville, who chairs the Senate Reapportionment and Redistricting Committee.

“It does not tell Judge Jones we know better than he does,” added Rep. Rob Leverette, R-Elberton, Echols’ House counterpart, referring to the House map. “It follows his order.”

But Democrats said Republicans failed to create the seven additional Black-majority districts the judge ordered.

House Minority Whip Sam Park, D-Lawrenceville, said the House map actually creates a net of three Black-majority districts rather than five because it took away two of those districts in DeKalb and Gwinnett counties. In both cases, the changes were made for partisan gain, he said.

“This map is an undemocratic exercise of gerrymandering that harms the people’s ability to elect candidates of their choice,” Park said.

Democrats also objected to the House map pairing four sets of incumbents in the same districts, including three sets of Democrats and only one Republican pair.

Leverette said the court order left Republicans no choice but to pair incumbents in order to create five additional Black-majority House districts.

“I wish we didn’t have to do this,” Leverette told his House colleagues. “I would not propose something I thought would harm any of you unless I had to to comply with the court order.”

On the Senate side, Sen. Sally Harrell, D-Atlanta, said Republicans strayed beyond the areas in the southern end of metro Atlanta that Jones ruled violate the Voting Rights Act in order to protect GOP incumbents.

“This map works harder at protecting Republicans than fixing the problem,” she said.

Democrats also warned the new legislative maps will end up in court because – like the 2021 maps – they still violate the Voting Rights Act.

“Passing the (Senate) Republican map will only lead to more litigation and waste taxpayer money,” Butler said.

The two legislative maps now move across the Capitol for the Senate to consider the House map and vice versa. The General Assembly’s special redistricting session will continue next week with lawmakers facing a Dec. 8 deadline set by the court to finish their work.

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