Lawsuit: GA House districts ‘gerrymandered’ to remove minority voters

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Lawsuit: GA House districts ‘gerrymandered’ to remove minority voters

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Mar. 22, 2017 - Atlanta - Rep. Brian Strickland, R - McDonough, presents SB 201, relating to family leave, which passed. Legislative photos from today, the 37th legislative day of the 2017 Georgia General Assembly. BOB ANDRES /BANDRES@AJC.COM

A new federal lawsuit claims Georgia illegally gerrymandered two state House districts by moving minority voters out of the districts of two vulnerable white Republican lawmakers.

The suit, filed Monday by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, claims that the districts of Reps. Joyce Chandler, R-Grayson, and Brian Strickland, R-McDonough, were redrawn in 2015 to increase the percentage of white voters to “guarantee the election of white incumbents,” Kristen Clarke, president of the Lawyers Committee, said Monday.

The suit names the state of Georgia and Secretary of State Brian Kemp, who administers elections, as defendants. Monday is a Georgia state holiday and officials in the secretary of state’s office could not immediately be reached for comment. A spokesman for House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, declined to comment.

The Sine Die 2017 edition of Georgia Legislative Week in Review with Aaron Gould Sheinin, Kristina Torres and the Phrase of the Week by James Salzer. Video by Bob Andres / bandres@ajc.com

Chandler’s District 105 seat and Strickland’s District 111 have been two of the most competitive in the 180-member House. Both district boundaries were changed in 2015 when lawmakers passed House Bill 566, which also adjusted the lines of 15 other districts.

But the lawsuit only focused on districts 105 and 111 and claims the new maps violate the Voting Rights Act. Those two districts were redrawn with one goal, Clarke said: “Reduce the ability of African-American and other minority voters to elect candidates of their choice.”

Bill Custer, a partner at Bryan Cave law firm in Atlanta, who is helping bring the suit, said, “we need to, and are able to, prove that race was used as the predominant factor for drawing the district lines.”

This is the second suit the Lawyers Committee has filed against the state and Kemp in the past week. A suit filed last week claims the state violates federal law by denying people the opportunity to register to vote in a runoff if they were not registered in time for the primary.

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