Federal Judge Orders Georgia to Draw Additional Black-Majority Districts
Court rules districts drawn in racially discriminatory manner
A federal judge has ruled that some of Georgia’s congressional, state Senate, and state House districts were drawn in a racially discriminatory manner. The Judge has issued an order for the state to draw new districts, including one new Black-majority congressional district, before December 8, 2023. The court’s ruling comes after the plaintiffs argued that Black voters are still fighting opposition from white voters and need federal help to get a fair shot.
Impact of the ruling
The new districts could shift the balance of power in the state, possibly leading to one of Georgia’s 14 congressional seats going from Republican to Democratic control. The court-ordered changes could also narrow the majority held by Republicans in the state House and Senate, although they are unlikely to lead to a Democratic takeover.
Background of the case
The Georgia case is part of a nationwide wave of litigation after the U.S. Supreme Court rejected a challenge to the Voting Rights Act by Alabama earlier this year. Courts in Alabama and Florida also recently ruled that Republican-led legislatures had unfairly diluted the voting power of Black residents. Legal challenges to congressional districts are ongoing in several other states, including Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, New Mexico, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Utah.
Judge Jones’ decision
Judge Steve Jones conducted a “thorough and sifting review” of the evidence before concluding that Georgia violated the Voting Rights Act in enacting the current congressional and legislative maps. He wrote that he commends Georgia for the progress it has made in increasing the political opportunities of Black voters, but despite those gains, he determined that, in certain areas of the state, the political process is not equally open to Black voters.
Judge Jones highlighted the fact that, despite all of the state’s population growth over the last decade being attributable to the minority population, the number of congressional and legislative districts with a Black majority remained the same. This echoes a key contention of the plaintiffs, who argued repeatedly that the state added nearly 500,000 Black residents between 2010 and 2020 but drew no new Black-majority state Senate districts and only two additional Black-majority state House districts. They also stated that Georgia should have another Black-majority congressional district.
Scheduling a special session
In his ruling, Judge Jones ordered the Georgia General Assembly, and the governor, to take action before December 8, 2023, stating that he would not permit the 2024 elections to go forward under the current maps. That would require a special session, as lawmakers are not scheduled to meet again until January.
The Judge’s ruling is a significant victory for the plaintiffs and Black voters in Georgia. The decision highlights the ongoing struggle for equal representation and the need for federal intervention to ensure that all voters are treated fairly under the law. It remains to be seen how Georgia Republicans will respond to the ruling and whether they will comply with the court’s orders to draw new districts.