Former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder speaks during a November 2018 rally for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams inside Forbes Arena at Morehouse College. (ALYSSA POINTER/ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM)
Photo: Alyssa Pointer
Photo: Alyssa Pointer

Lawsuit over black voting power in Georgia dismissed

A federal lawsuit alleging that Georgia’s congressional maps reduced the voting strength of African Americans has been dismissed.

The plaintiffs, backed by a national Democratic group, agreed to end the redistricting case Monday as a federal judge was preparing to hear it in court later this month, according to court documents.

The lawsuit challenged congressional maps approved by the Republican-led Georgia General Assembly in 2011, when the state’s 14 districts were redrawn after the state gained a U.S. representative because of population growth, much of it by minorities. Republicans currently control nine of Georgia’s congressional seats, up from the eight they held before redistricting.

Attorneys for Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger argued the case was an attempt by Democrats to gain political power through the courts.

“Plaintiffs filed this case with a clear goal: to force the creation of a district that a Democrat can win,” according to a court motion. “But their attempt to score a partisan goal using the Voting Rights Act comes up short.”

The secretary of state's office didn't provide comment Tuesday.

The lawsuit was supported by the National Redistricting Foundation, a nonprofit affiliate of the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, which is led by Eric Holder, who was attorney general under President Barack Obama.

The case, filed nearly two years ago, was dismissed because it wouldn't be resolved before redistricting takes place again in 2021, said Patrick Rodenbush, a spokesman for the National Redistricting Foundation.

“Federal law requires that African Americans, as well as other minorities, be given the opportunity to elect candidates of their choice in appropriate circumstances. Nothing about this case changes that, and the Georgia Legislature should keep that in mind as they move forward with the redistricting process next year,” Rodenbush said.

The plaintiffs, four black Georgia voters, wanted the courts to redraw the state’s 12th Congressional District, a seat in central and southeast Georgia held by Republican Rick Allen.

The population of the 12th Congressional District is about 33% African American, and the lawsuit sought a new map that increased its number of black voters.

The state defended its congressional maps, saying the political representation of Georgia is roughly proportional to its population.

Five of Georgia’s 14 members of the U.S. House are African Americans and Democrats, making up 36% of Georgia’s representation. By comparison, 32% of the state’s population is African American.

“The Democrats came to the conclusion that they were not going to win,” said Adam Kincaid, the executive director for the National Republican Redistricting Trust. “Georgia already had proportional representation in terms of its African American population in members of Congress.”

The U.S. Supreme Court in 2018 left in place partisan gerrymandering — the practice of state legislators drawing districts to preserve a party’s position in power.

The once-a-decade redistricting process will start again next year in the General Assembly, which will draw new boundaries for state and federal representatives based on the 2020 census.

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