Citing this year’s Allen v. Milligan Supreme Court ruling, US District Court Judge Steve Jones wrote in his decision that the new maps illegally dilute the voting power of Georgia’s Black residents.
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A federal judge on Thursday ruled that the congressional and state district maps that Republican lawmakers came up with in Georgia constitute a racial gerrymander and must be redrawn.
Citing this year’s Allen v. Milligan Supreme Court ruling, which mandated Alabama to create a second majority-minority (or close to it) congressional district, US District Court Judge Steve Jones wrote in his decision that the new maps illegally dilute the voting power of Georgia’s Black residents.
While the judge, who was appointed by President Barack Obama, lauded the Peach State for having made progress in achieving greater political equality, he also made it clear that more work has to be done.
“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,” Jones wrote in a 516-page decision. “Despite these great gains, the Court determines that in certain areas of the State, the political process is not equally open to Black voters.”
As a result, Jones is directing Republicans to go back to the drawing board and add an additional majority-Black congressional seat near Atlanta.
While Georgia elected Joe Biden in 2020 and has two Democratic senators, the gerrymandered map in the closely divided state has ensured that the GOP has a 9-5 edge in its congressional delegation.
A new map would likely turn that into a more appropriate 8-6 split in favor of Republicans.
In the trial over the map, lawyers arguing on behalf of the state contended that the fact that Democrats hold both Senate seats is an indication that the Black vote in Georgia is not diluted.
However, that argument is disingenuous because, in a statewide vote, of course the gerrymandering of districts does not matter.
The judge also wants lawmakers to redraw some state Senate and House districts.
Specifically, he calls for the creation of two additional state Senate districts in the southern Atlanta metropolitan area, in which Black people constitute a majority, and a total of five additional state House districts in which Black voters have a better opportunity to elect someone who actually represents them.
He stressed that these must be new majority-minority districts and cannot come at the expense of other such districts throughout Georgia.
Noting that Black voters have suffered “significant harm” from the illegal maps, the judge ordered Republican lawmakers, who will likely appeal the ruling, to get to work quickly and present a revised map by December 8.
If they fail to do so, Jones said the court would “proceed to draw or adopt remedial plans.”
While the Supreme Court has traditionally not been very helpful in stopping gerrymandering, its Allen v. Milligan decision has opened the door for several lawsuits challenging maps, primarily in Southern states, on the basis that they were racially gerrymandered.