Cobb Elections seeks court judgment on county’s move to change electoral map

The Cobb elections board will ask a Cobb County Superior Court judge to weigh in on whether the Board of Commissioners has the power to adopt its own electoral map under the home rule statute and overturn the Legislature-approved map — the unprecedented move commissioners made earlier this year.

After an hour-long executive session, the elections board voted Monday to request a declaratory judgment, which can be issued by a judge prior to litigation to provide clarity and issue guidance on the issue in question.

“I’d like to move that we request our counsel to file a motion in Superior Court requesting a declaratory judgment with regard to the disparity between the county commission adopted position, and the Legislature’s adopted maps,” said Steve Bruning, an elections board member.

During the process to redraw district lines earlier this year, Republican lawmakers in the General Assembly bypassed the traditional process and drew an electoral map in Cobb that could force Commissioner Jerica Richardson out of her seat two years before the end of her term and strengthened GOP strongholds in the county.

Richardson has previously said she has no intentions of leaving the board in January, even though commissioners must reside in the districts they represent.

Chairwoman Lisa Cupid said beginning Jan. 1, 2023, when the electoral map goes into effect, the county will be operating under the map passed under the home rule statute by the board this fall.

“Our plans are to continue with our maps until there’s a successful legal challenge,” Cupid said.

Georgia state Sen.-elect Ed Setzler prompted the election board’s discussion on the matter by publicly asking them to agree to use the Legislature-approved map, disregarding the county’s map as unlawful, based on an unofficial opinion letter issued by the Office of Legislative Counsel.

“My goal today is to avoid litigation,” Setzler said. “This should be a simple matter of law.”

Given the possibility of a future lawsuit, Elections Attorney Daniel White recommended the board discuss the matter in executive session, after which they voted to seek a judgment from the courts.