Federal Judge Gives Huge Congressional Win To GOP

A federal judge has accepted new voting districts in Georgia that aim to protect Republican partisan advantages. The judge stated that the creation of new majority-black voting districts had addressed the issue of illegal minority vote dilution, which led to the order for the maps to be redrawn.

U.S. District Judge Steve Jones dismissed arguments suggesting the new maps fail to sufficiently represent Black voters. He stressed his inability to intervene in legislative decisions, even those aimed at preserving a specific party’s influence. The redistricting followed a special legislative session, prompted by Judge Jones’ October decision that the former maps unlawfully marginalized Black voters.

The recently sanctioned maps introduce Black-majority areas, as mandated by Judge Jones, comprising one congressional district, two state Senate regions, and five state House zones. Nonetheless, in certain Democratic territories without Black majorities, the maps were reconfigured favorably for Republicans. An example is the 7th Congressional District in suburban Atlanta, currently represented by Democratic U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath.

Rep. McBath plans to run for reelection in 2024 in the newly drawn 6th Congressional District, assuming the existing congressional map remains unchanged after appeals. This would mark her second campaign in a different district, prompted by redistricting initiatives that benefit Republicans.

The reconfiguration of Georgia’s districts reflects a broader pattern of redistricting movements throughout the South, a response to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling affirming the 1964 Voting Rights Act. Nonetheless, the situation in Georgia has unfolded distinctively due to the constraints of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. While this section safeguards minority voters, it doesn’t stop Republicans from altering Democratic-controlled districts that predominantly have white residents.

With the approval of the redrawn maps, Georgia’s 2024 elections are likely to maintain the current Republican majority in the congressional seats and state Senate, with Democrats possibly gaining one or two seats in the state House.

The voters and civic groups who challenged the 2021 maps argue that the new maps fail to address the problems identified by Judge Jones. However, the judge stated that lawmakers were not limited to fixing only the previously identified districts and that the objections the plaintiffs raised were insufficient to reject the maps.

The dispute over the congressional map centered on the legality of dissolving Rep. McBath’s District while simultaneously creating a new Black-majority 6th District. The plaintiffs argue that this violates the guarantee of opportunities for minority voters outlined in Section 2 of the federal Voting Rights Act. Judge Jones stated that he lacked the necessary evidence to address the Voting Rights Act claim and advised the plaintiffs to file a new lawsuit to pursue their allegations of harm to minority voters resulting from the removal of Rep. McBath’s current District.