Too late for Georgia to switch maps for midterms

ATLANTA (AP) — It’s essentially already too late to make changes sought by lawsuits challenging Georgia’s new congressional and legislative maps ahead of this year’s midterm elections, a lawyer for state officials said Wednesday. ‘State.

Gov. Brian Kemp signed the new maps for congressional and state legislative districts on Dec. 30. Three lawsuits challenging the cards were immediately filed that day, and two more have since been filed by individual voters, voting rights groups and other organizations. .

Advocates for those critics of the new maps have dismissed the idea that January is too late to make changes when the general election isn’t held until November.


The lawsuits argue that the new cards inappropriately reduce the voting strength of black voters and other voters of color. Two of the lawsuits argue that the cards violate the US Constitution, while the others focus on alleged violations of federal voting rights law.

Timing, jurisdiction and whether to consolidate the cases were among the issues discussed at a hearing on Wednesday attended by three judges and a dozen lawyers.

The 2022 election cycle effectively begins Thursday when candidates and their supporters can begin circulating nomination petitions, said attorney Bryan Tyson, who represents the various state officials named in the lawsuits. In addition, he said, the secretary of state’s office told county officials they needed to get all redistricting changes into the voter registration system by Feb. 18 to avoid to cause problems for the qualification of candidates, which begins on March 7, and other preparations for the month of May. 24 primaries.

With those processes already underway based on maps signed by the governor, Tyson said, it’s basically too late to make changes for the 2022 cycle. Instead, he said, elections this year should be held using the new maps and any changes that become necessary as a result of the lawsuits could be implemented for the 2024 election cycle.

U.S. District Judge Steve Jones pointed out that the Georgia General Assembly is currently in session and could change dates if necessary. Kevin Hamilton, a lawyer who filed two of the lawsuits on behalf of individual voters, noted that the court could also order changes to the dates.

It’s “a bit surprising” to hear the state say it’s too late to fix cards that include Voting Rights Act violations, Hamilton said. That’s a bit “inconsistent” given that the governor waited about 40 days to approve the maps after they were passed by state lawmakers in a special legislative session in November, he argued.

By law, the constitutional claims raised in two of the lawsuits must be heard by a three-judge panel. Among the issues the judges must decide is whether the panel also has jurisdiction over other lawsuits that only raise claims under the Voting Rights Act or whether those lawsuits are to be heard by the court. one of the judges alone. Judges must also decide the timing and whether some or all of the lawsuits can be consolidated to streamline the process.

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