By Fredreka Schouten, CNN
(CNN) – A federal judge on Thursday ordered Georgia to draw up new congressional and state legislative plans, ruling that state legislatures improperly weakened the political power of Black voters by setting those boundaries after the 2020 census.
U.S. District Judge Steve Jones’ ruling could result in Democrats securing an additional seat in the U.S. House of Representatives from Georgia. Republicans currently hold nine spots in the state’s 14-member congressional delegation.
The Peach State dispute is one of several legal and political battles taking place in nearly a dozen states that could determine whether the GOP retains its narrow majority in the U.S. House of Representatives after next year’s elections.
In his ruling, Jones said Georgia’s Republican-controlled Legislature violated the Voting Rights Act, the country’s landmark civil rights law, when drawing district boundaries.
“The Court commends Georgia for the great progress it has made in the 58 years since the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 to improve the political opportunities of Black voters,” Jones wrote. “Despite these large gains, the Court finds that the political process is not equally accessible to Black voters in certain parts of the state.”
He noted that “all” of the state’s population growth over the past decade has come from minorities, but said that “the number of majority-black congressional and legislative districts has remained the same.”
Jones, who gave state lawmakers a Dec. 8 deadline to draw new maps, directed lawmakers to create an additional majority-black congressional district in the western part of metro Atlanta, as well as two additional state Senate districts and five others States to create House districts with black majorities.
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp on Thursday called a special session for lawmakers on Nov. 29 to work on new maps and a handful of other issues.
Democrats and voting rights groups immediately applauded Jones’ decision.
U.S. Rep. Nikema Williams, the chairwoman of the Georgia Democratic Party, called the ruling a “resounding victory” for democracy.
“Republicans knew they couldn’t get their ideas passed, so instead they redrew the maps in their favor,” she said in a statement. “Today’s decision confirms what Georgia Democrats already knew: Georgia Republicans’ attempts to maintain power through voter suppression and racial discrimination will not stand.”
State GOP Chairman Josh McKoon called the decision a “naked power grab by Democrats’ partisan allies on the federal bench.”
Jones was nominated by former President Barack Obama and joined the bank in 2011.
“It is simply outrageous that a far-left federal judge is overruling the will of the elected representatives of the people of Georgia, who have drawn fair maps consistent with long-standing legal principles,” McKoon said in a statement previously posted on the X platform as Twitter.
A spokesman for Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr, whose office has defended the lawmakers’ maps in court, said officials were reviewing Jones’ order.
The decision in Georgia comes a day after North Carolina’s Republican-controlled legislature approved a congressional plan that could help the GOP flip at least three U.S. House seats now held by Democrats.
Legal battles over other congressional maps are underway across the country, from New York to Utah.
The CNN Wire
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