Attorney General: Redistricting map passed by Cobb commissioners ‘not legally binding’

Credit: Curtis Compton/AJC

Credit: Curtis Compton/AJC

The state attorney general’s office has issued a statement calling the Cobb Commission’s move to amend its own electoral redistricting map “inappropriate and not legally binding.”

It is the most recent unofficial opinion, and possibly the most damning yet, from the state against the county.

Democratic commissioners amended the map in rebuke of the state lawmakers who drew Commissioner Jerica Richardson out of her district halfway through her term. Officials and legal experts have weighed in on the issue, with most doubtful that the county will be successful given the wide-ranging impact of allowing counties to redistrict themselves.

Now, that map is facing an imminent court challenge, which the AG’s office also says it plans to support.

“Georgia law does not grant our department the authority to initiate a lawsuit in the current situation,” AG spokeswoman Kara Richardson said in a statement. “We will, however, not hesitate to engage when and where appropriate should a lawsuit be filed by the right party.”

Resident Larry Savage filed a lawsuit in December, but later asked that it be dismissed so he could refile it against the Board of Commissioners instead of the Cobb Elections Board.

Savage’s attorney, Jason Thompson, said the attorney general’s position gives him even more confidence in the lawsuit, which he said will be refiled in early February.

“This case is about: do they have the right to do that or not?” Thompson said. “And it’s not about politics, even though some people want to make it about politics.”

Republican Commissioners JoAnn Birrell and Keli Gambrill have said previously that they requested an opinion from the attorney general regarding the constitutionality of operating under the county-passed map instead of the state-approved map. Both commissioners protested at the first county meeting of the year, calling into question the legitimacy of the board’s makeup.

A Cobb spokesman said the AG opinion does not change the county’s position on the maps. The county attorney declined comment.

When asked if the AG opinion changes that stance, a county spokesman responded: “The County Attorney does not wish to respond at this time.”

Other state agencies to weigh in include the Secretary of State’s office and the Office of Legislative Counsel, both of which argued the county does not have the authority to pass its own electoral map.