WASHINGTON, D.C. — Republicans in the Georgia Legislature released proposals this week for new legislative and congressional maps featuring additional Black-majority districts after being ordered to do so by a federal judge.
The proposed congressional map would add an additional majority-Black seat, the state House map would add five majority-Black seats and the state Senate map would feature two new majority-Black districts, as required.
Georgia legislators were ordered to draw the three new maps in October, when a federal judge ruled that the state’s current districts diluted the voting strength of Black voters in violation of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA), a decision that stemmed from three lawsuits filed by Black voters.
However, the released maps still entrench conservative power in the state by heavily gerrymandering the districts in favor of Republican legislators, and some Democrats and experts have expressed concerns that the maps are not VRA-compliant.
The state’s congressional map as proposed would add an additional majority-Black district in the western suburbs of Atlanta, but keep in place Republicans’ 9-5 congressional delegation majority. Additionally, the map eliminates the majority-minority district of Rep. Lucy McBath (D), replacing it with a majority-white district.
In a statement, McBath’s campaign made clear that the congresswoman refuses to “let an extremist few in the state Legislature determine when her time serving Georgians in Congress is done” and that she felt the map was created “solely” to remove her from Congress.
The move to eliminate the majority-minority district would seemingly run afoul of the court’s order, which stated that “[t]he State cannot remedy the Section 2 violations described herein by eliminating minority opportunity districts elsewhere in the plans.”
The new majority-Black Senate districts proposed by Republicans would replace existing majority-white districts controlled by Democrats — meaning Democrats in the state wouldn’t be expected to gain additional seats under the proposed maps, though that was not required under the judge’s order. The Senate map would retain the 33-23 advantage Republicans currently enjoy. The proposed Senate map is so gerrymandered in favor of Republicans that in 2020 President Joe Biden would have had to win the state by around 15 points in order to win a majority of the districts.
Earlier today, the Senate map was passed by the state Senate in a 32-23 vote, and now goes to the state House.
Democrats released their own Senate map proposal, putting forward a plan that would create 31 Republican districts to Democrats’ 25, and replace two Republican-held districts with two additional majority-Black districts.
The Republican-drawn House map would provide minimal improvement for Democrats: Republicans would be favored in 99 districts compared to Democrats’ 81.The current makeup is 102-78 in favor of Republicans, and the median districts would be just as slanted towards Republicans as they were before, making it practically impossible for Democrats to gain control of the chamber, according to experts.
The Republican House map also passed earlier today, in a 101-77 vote. It now goes to the state Senate.
In a statement, Fair Fight Action said the Senate and House maps were constructed “in a clear violation of the Voting Rights Act.”
In the ruling ordering the new maps, the judge reasoned that while the state had made progress toward equality in voting, evidence presented showed “that Georgia has not reached the point where the political process has equal openness and equal opportunity for everyone.”
The Georgia Legislature has until Dec. 8 to adopt compliant maps. If they fail to do so, the court will take over drawing the maps as was done in Alabama when the state refused to comply with a similar court order. The Republican defendants in the Georgia redistricting lawsuits — including Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R) — appealed the decision ordering the new Georgia maps. That appeal is now pending before the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.