The lawsuit filed against Cobb County over its district map may have hit a few snags this month, but it is still moving forward.
Keli Gambrill in her capacity as a resident, not as the District 1 commissioner, brought forward the third and fourth lawsuits this week looking for a judge to address whether the county had the power to amend its own electoral map last year, a move she vehemently opposed from the start.
She and resident Larry Savage withdrew the lawsuit they filed together in February after the county moved to dismiss it on procedural grounds. Gambrill immediately refiled the litigation without Savage, who said he can no longer participate because of his two prior suits.
“Now I’ve had two withdrawals, so I am no longer eligible to file anything against the county on this issue, so I’m no longer a plaintiff,” said Savage, who pursued litigation last year and later withdrew the suit on a procedural issue.
One of the new lawsuits asks Cobb County Superior Court Judge Sonja Brown to issue a declaratory judgment that the county-passed map is unconstitutional, as Gambrill, some state lawmakers and the state attorney general have previously asserted.
The second lawsuit asks Superior Court Judge Ann Harris to order that the county retract its amended map and “ensure that only those commissioners who are validly, legally, and constitutionally permitted to serve in their capacities” continue to serve on the board — an apparent request to oust Commissioner Jerica Richardson from her post.
The board changed its map last fall in part to protect Richardson’s seat after GOP state lawmakers drew her out of her district halfway through her term.
“We want the judge to decide what the law says, which is the question we’ve all been asking,” Gambrill said.
A judge striking down the county’s map could render Richardson, the tie-breaking vote in the board’s Democratic majority, disqualified from office because commissioners must live in the district they represent — an outcome that could leave the board in a party-line stalemate until a new District 2 commissioner could be elected.
County officials have said the county-passed map will remain in place until a judge rules otherwise, leaving the board operating in uncertain legal territory. After tensions flared on the Board of Commissioners at the start of this year, Gambrill opted to join the legal proceedings as a resident, further complicating board relations that were tense even before the map challenge.
County officials and residents alike are waiting for a resolution to the ongoing redistricting conflict. Residents frequently voice their support or opposition in public comments at commission meetings. The two Republican commissioners continue to read their statements of protest, which have been attached to each meeting’s minutes since the controversial map went into effect.
Savage said he will still be following closely as the litigation moves forward, especially since he lives in the disputed areas of Districts 2 and 3: “I am very determined to see this through to the end.”
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