Kemp signs Georgia’s Republican redistricting into law

Judge to decide whether new maps still violate Voting Rights Act
Gov. Brian Kemp on Friday signed into law new Republican-drawn political maps for Georgia’s congressional and General Assembly districts. A federal judge will now consider whether they comply with his order after he ruled the previous maps had illegally weakened Black voting power. (Arvin Temkar / arvin.temkar@ajc.com)

Credit: Arvin Temkar/AJC

Credit: Arvin Temkar/AJC

Gov. Brian Kemp on Friday signed into law new Republican-drawn political maps for Georgia’s congressional and General Assembly districts. A federal judge will now consider whether they comply with his order after he ruled the previous maps had illegally weakened Black voting power. (Arvin Temkar / arvin.temkar@ajc.com)

Meeting a federal judge’s deadline, Gov. Brian Kemp signed into law new Republican-drawn political maps Friday that redistrict Georgia’s congressional and General Assembly seats before next year’s elections.

The redrawn district lines preserve Republican majorities after the judge ruled that Georgia’s previous boundaries illegally weakened Black voting power in violation of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

The maps are designed to safeguard Republicans’ 9-5 majority among the state’s U.S. House delegation and the GOP’s dominance in the General Assembly.

Kemp didn’t comment on the three bills, which reshape districts for the U.S. House, the state House and the state Senate. The legislation passed the General Assembly this week on party-line votes.

U.S. District Judge Steve Jones’ ruling in October found that Georgia’s districts drawn two years ago failed to provide adequate opportunities for Black voters, whose population has surged since 2010 while the number of white residents declined. In Georgia, Black voters overwhelmingly support Democrats and white voters usually back Republicans.

Credit: arvin.temkar@ajc.com

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Credit: arvin.temkar@ajc.com

Jones ordered several additional districts with Black majorities: one more in the U.S. House, five more in the state House and two more in the state Senate.

Republican legislators said they obeyed Jones’ requirement for new Black districts, but Democrats said the GOP’s maps fall short of the judge’s order because they move around voters in a way that still denies them representation.

Now Jones will have to decide whether lawmakers complied with his order after a Dec. 20 hearing in federal court.

If Jones rules that the Republican redistricting continues to discriminate against Black voters, he could appoint a mapmaking expert to redraw the state’s maps again. The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and U.S. Supreme Court could ultimately decide the case.

Georgia election officials have said that districts must be finalized by sometime in January in time to prepare for next year’s elections.

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