Kemp promulgates new district maps for Georgian lawmakers

ATLANTA (AP) – Governor Brian Kemp on Thursday signed new cards for the Georgia Congressional delegation, State Senate and State House, prompting at least one immediate lawsuit challenging the legislative cards of the State even as candidates prepare to run under the new lines.

The new districts are designed to increase the number of Republicans in Georgia’s 14-member congressional delegation from eight to nine, transforming the 6th district in suburban Atlanta now owned by Democratic Representative Lucy McBath into a strongly Republican district. McBath has previously announced that she will travel to the new 7th District in Gwinnett and Fulton Counties, which has been made much more Democratic, to launch a main challenge against fellow Democratic Representative from the United States, Carolyn Bourdeaux.

The state Senate card is expected to keep 59%, or 33, of the 56 Senate seats in the hands of the GOP. This is down from 34 now. The State House card is expected to keep 54% of the House seats, or 98 out of 180, in the hands of Republicans. That’s down from 103 Republicans now.

Republican Kemp’s decision to delay signing the cards cuts the time for a trial before candidates qualify in March and voting begins before the May 24 party primaries. The short period could allow the state to ask a judge to postpone a ruling until the 2022 election goes according to the cards Kemp signed.

Democrats say the new lines, especially for Congress and the state Senate, are taking on too much power for Republicans, given that President Joe Biden won Georgia with a slim majority last year and that two Democratic senators won seats in January.

Critics also allege that the cards violate federal voting rights law by unnecessarily dividing minority populations, especially because non-whites make up most of the new Georgians added in the past decade.

The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit in Atlanta federal court on behalf of the historically black fraternity Alpha Phi Alpha, the Sixth District of the African Methodist Episcopal Church spanning Georgia, and several individual voters. The lawsuit claims the state House and Senate lines are unconstitutional because they dilute black voting power by not attracting as many districts as possible to the black-majority Senate and State House.

The lawsuit challenges three Senate districts – District 16 in part of Fayette and all of Spalding, Pike and Lamar counties; District 17 in parts of Henry, Newton and Walton counties and throughout Morgan County; and District 23, which includes parts of Richmond and Columbia counties as well as all of Burke, Emanuel, Jenkins, Screven, Jefferson, Glascock, Warren, Taliaferro and McDuffie.

The complaint was filed against Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, although he did not draw the boundaries of the district because he is the state chief electoral officer.

The ACLU alleges that majority Republicans erred in attracting as many majority-minority constituencies to the Senate as they initially did, without acknowledging the growing number and share of black voters in the state.

“The state has drawn maps that systematically hinder the growth of political power in black communities,” the lawyers wrote.

The lawsuit also argues that at least five other predominantly black districts of the State House could have been drawn, including at least three in the southern and eastern suburbs of Atlanta, at least one more around Augusta and at least one more in southwest Georgia.

Prosecutions must prove a number of factual assertions to move forward, including that there are enough members of a racial minority to create a majority-minority district, that the minority group is politically consistent, and that the white majority block votes in a way that will generally beat the preferred minority candidate.

For the past decade, the United States Supreme Court has ruled out challenges based on partisan gerrymandering. But although the court overturned the requirement that Georgia and other areas with a history of racial discrimination obtain preclearance for new district cards from the United States Department of Justice, the way remains open for people to sue. a lawsuit alleging racial bias after lawmakers passed the cards.

Republicans say they were careful to follow the dictates of the voting rights law. They also note that their maps divide fewer counties.

Fair Districts Georgia, a group that analyzed the cards for the purpose of preventing gerrymandering, said the three cards would have fewer districts where each side would have a chance to win than under the current lines.

The General Assembly must redraw electoral districts at least once every ten years to equalize populations after the US census. Georgia added more than one million people from 2010 to 2020, with urban districts generally growing and rural districts generally shrinking.

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