Georgia Supreme Court dismisses case challenging Cobb electoral map

Georgia Supreme Court Justice Nels S.D. Peterson listens to arguments during a hearing about Cobb County passing its own district map at the Nathan Deal Judicial Center on Wednesday, April 17, 2024. (Natrice Miller/AJC)

Georgia Supreme Court Justice Nels S.D. Peterson listens to arguments during a hearing about Cobb County passing its own district map at the Nathan Deal Judicial Center on Wednesday, April 17, 2024. (Natrice Miller/AJC)

Cobb County’s electoral map, controversially passed by the county commission after a map drawn by the Republican state Legislature would have moved a sitting Democrat out of her commission district in the middle of her term, will stay in place for now.

The Georgia Supreme Court dismissed the lawsuit challenging the county map’s legality on Thursday, ruling unanimously that the plaintiffs did not overcome the necessary procedural hurdles and avoiding any judgement on the case’s merits — whether county governments have the legal authority to drawn their own electoral lines.

The justices ruled that plaintiffs David and Catherine Floam had a right to bring the case but did not prove that they were substantially impacted.

“To be clear, the fact that there are two competing maps does create significant uncertainty for many. But the Floams have not shown that this uncertainty affects their future conduct,” Presiding Justice Nels Peterson wrote in the decision.

“We express no view about the correct resolution of the very serious constitutional issueswith the county’s map, Peterson wrote.

The dismissal kicks the issue of the map’s constitutionality further down the road, increasing the likelihood that this year’s elections will be held under the county-drawn map. Another lawsuit challenging the county map’s constitutionality, filed by a would-be commission candidate, is pending in Cobb Superior Court.

While concurring with the decision, Justice Charlie Bethel wrote: “Cobb has a substantial risk of losing and it seems unwise to ignore that risk.”

“A delayed loss by Cobb could give rise to calamitous consequences inflicting serious expense and practical hardship on its citizens,” Bethel wrote. “Accordingly, I urge Cobb to act with all dispatch in obtaining a final answer on the legal merits of its chosen path.”

When asked if there are plans to take any such action, spokesman Ross Cavitt said the county attorneys “do not believe there is a proper action the county can file.”

In 2022, Cobb commissioners made the unprecedented move to pass its own electoral map in rebuke of GOP state legislators, who approved a map that drew Democratic Commissioner Jerica Richardson out of her district halfway through her term. The county-drawn map went into effect January 2023.

(left to right) Cobb County commissioner Keli Gambrill and plaintiff Catherine Floam sit in on a hearing before the Georgia Supreme Court about Cobb County passing its own district map at the Nathan Deal Judicial Center on Wednesday, April 17, 2024. (Natrice Miller/ AJC)

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The Floams, along with sitting Republican Commissioner Keli Gambrill, challenged in Cobb Superior Court, where the map was struck down as unconstitutional. The county appealed that ruling to the Georgia Supreme Court, and proceeded with candidate qualifying under boundaries drawn in the county map.

In the lawsuit pending in Superior Court, a potential candidate for District 2 commission seat was disqualified because she does not live in the district under the county-drawn map. She would live in the district under the state-drawn map.

Chuck Boring, attorney for the disqualified candidate Alicia Adams, said he thinks Adams’ case is a proper legal avenue to get an answer on the constitutionality of the county’s map.

“Anyone who reads the opinion or watched the oral argument can tell that there are serious reasons to doubt that the (county’s) map is constitutional,” Boring said.

Cobb County Commission candidate Alicia Adams (left) watches as her attorney argues against her disqualification in a hearing over the residency challenge brought by Mindy Seger (right) on Friday, March 15, 2024 in Marietta. Adams is appealing her disqualification to the Cobb Superior Court. (Taylor Croft/

Credit: Taylor Croft

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Credit: Taylor Croft

The issue over the county map has caused political uproar from constituents, candidates, commissioners and state leaders, with Attorney General Chris Carr and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger decrying the county’s map as unconstitutional.

In response to the high court’s ruling, Carr again condemned the county commission for its “futile game of politics” and said the decision is doing a “grave disservice” to taxpayers and voters.

“They are wrong legally, and they need to do the right thing and immediately adopt and use the maps lawfully passed by the Georgia General Assembly,” Carr said via a spokesperson.

Cobb GOP Chair Salleigh Grubbs said the county has overstepped its authority by passing its own map, and said she is concerned over how the situation has already impacted ongoing elections.

“It’s very frustrating, because in the meantime, we have elections to conduct and voters being disenfranchised,” she said.

The county has held firm in its position that the home rule provision of the Georgia Constitution grants counties the authority to draw their own electoral maps. But that provision has never been interpreted to allow those powers before, creating a constitutional question over local control.

Chairwoman Lisa Cupid said in a statement that she is “pleased that the county has prevailed in our appeal.”