“Georgia Voter” stickers at a polling place for the 2020 presidential election in Atlanta, Georgia, USA, on Monday, October 12, 2020.
Elijah Nouvelage | Bloomberg | Getty Images
A federal judge ruled Thursday that some Georgia congressional, Senate and House districts were chosen in a racially discriminatory manner and ordered the state to designate an additional black-majority congressional district.
U.S. District Judge Steve Jones also ordered in a 516-page order that the state create two new black-majority districts in the 56-member Georgia state Senate and five new black-majority districts in the 180-member state House of Representatives.
Jones ordered the Republican-majority Georgia General Assembly and governor to take action before Dec. 8 and said he would not allow the 2024 election to be held under current maps. This would require a special session, as MPs are not scheduled to meet again until January.
Jones’ ruling follows a September trial in which the plaintiffs argued that black voters are still battling opposition from white voters and need federal help to get a fair shot, while the state argued that a judicial one Intervention on behalf of black voters was not necessary.
The move could result in one of Georgia’s 14 congressional seats flipping from Republicans to Democrats. Republican lawmakers reshaped the congressional map from an 8-6 Republican majority to a 9-5 Republican majority in 2021.
The Georgia case is part of a wave of litigation after the U.S. Supreme Court earlier this year stood behind its interpretation of the Voting Rights Act and rejected a challenge to the law by Alabama.
Community members arrive at their local polling place to vote on November 8, 2022 in Atlanta, Georgia.
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Courts in Alabama and Florida recently ruled that Republican-led legislatures had unfairly diluted the voting rights of black residents. Legal challenges to congressional districts are also underway in Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, New Mexico, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Utah.
Orders to draw new legislative districts could shrink Republican majorities in the state House and Senate. But these changes alone are unlikely to lead to a Democratic takeover.
Jones wrote that he conducted a “thorough and careful review” of the evidence in the case before concluding that Georgia violated the Voting Rights Act by adopting the current congressional and legislative plans.
He wrote that he “commends Georgia for the great strides it has made in increasing the political opportunities of black voters in the 58 years since this law was passed in 1965.” State, the political process is not equally open to black voters.”
But Jones pointed out that despite the fact that all of the state’s population growth over the last decade has come from minority populations, the number of congressional and legislative districts with a black majority has remained the same.
This reflects a central claim by the plaintiffs, who have repeatedly argued that the state added nearly 500,000 Black residents between 2010 and 2020 but created no new Black-majority Senate districts and only two additional Black-majority House districts in the state. They also said Georgia should have another black-majority congressional district.