New Georgia congressional map maintains Republican power and may defy judge

Georgia redistricting may be decided by the courts

Georgia Republican legislators refused to create an additional congressional district with a majority of Black voters and people of color, unveiling a map Friday that could defy a judge’s ruling that the state illegally weakened Black voting power.

The Republican-drawn map does not provide additional opportunities for Black representation in the U.S. House, leaving in place the GOP’s 9-5 advantage among Georgia’s congressional delegation.

Under the proposed map, nine districts would remain majority-white — the same amount as Georgia’s existing districts.

The Republican plan would increase the number of majority-Black districts to four by altering an Atlanta-area district where no race makes up a majority, currently represented by Democratic U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath. Another district in southwest Georgia district would remain 49% Black.

Georgia legislators appear to be going “down the Alabama path,” a reference to that state’s refusal to comply with a court’s order to add a Black district, said Charles Bullock, a University of Georgia political scientist and author of the book “Redistricting: The Most Political Activity in America.” Alabama lost its appeals.

”Slow learners, I guess,” Bullock said. “They’re willing to take a risk of the judge stepping in and having someone draw the congressional maps, but they weren’t willing to do that with their own districts.”

Credit: Special

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Credit: Special

The Republican boundaries reshape the Atlanta-area 7th Congressional District currently represented by McBath, where most voters are people of color but no single race makes up a majority. That district would shift to the conservative northern Atlanta suburbs and become overwhelmingly white, with just 9% of its voting-age population made up of Black residents.

Meanwhile, the map makes the 6th Congressional District west of Atlanta, represented by Republican U.S. Rep. Rich McCormick, 52% Black. During next year’s elections, both McCormick and McBath could run for different seats, and there’s no requirement that they live in their districts.

The map might conflict with U.S. District Judge Steve Jones’ order, which said that violations of the Voting Rights Act’s prohibition on racial discrimination can’t be corrected by eliminating districts with substantial minority populations.

“The state cannot remedy ... violations described herein by eliminating minority opportunity districts elsewhere in the plans,” Jones wrote in his order.

The map will quickly land back in federal court once it clears the Republican-controlled General Assembly by the judge’s Dec. 8 deadline.

If Jones finds that the map violates his ruling, he could appoint an expert to redraw Georgia’s maps yet again — without approval from the General Assembly. Appeals would likely follow.

But House Speaker Jon Burns said he believes the map fulfills the judge’s requirements.

“This map meets the promise we made when this process began: It fully complies with the judge’s order while also following Georgia’s traditional redistricting principles,” said Burns, a Republican from Newington. “We look forward to passing this fair redistricting plan.”

McBath’s campaign manager, Jake Orvis, said Georgia Republicans are attempting to “subvert voters by changing the rules.”

“Congresswoman McBath refuses to let an extremist few in the state Legislature determine when her time serving Georgians in Congress is done,” Orvis said.

McCormick said Thursday that he would seek another term, regardless of new maps.

“It doesn’t matter if I’m ahead by one point or by 20 points, it’s the same message. We have to have a positive vision for the future based on letting people succeed by getting the government out of the way,” McCormick told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

In a similar case in Alabama, the Legislature bucked a federal court order to add an additional Black district, but appellate courts kept the ruling in place.

The court then imposed a new congressional map for Alabama that will be used in next year’s elections. The U.S. Supreme Court in June upheld the Voting Rights Act’s protections for Black voters in the Alabama case.

If the proposed maps pass, residents of southwest Cobb County, which includes the mostly Black cities of Austell and Powder Springs, may be relieved to no longer be represented by controversial Republican U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene.

Many Black residents said they were shocked in 2021 to learn the Republican-led General Assembly had drawn them into the current 14th Congressional District, which stretches north through western Georgia to the Tennessee border.

The new proposal would place the entire southern half of Cobb into the more compact metro Atlanta district in the part of the state currently represented by U.S. Rep. David Scott, where they were before redistricting in 2021.

Jones’ order in October found that Black voters lacked adequate opportunities for representation that reflected their population growth over the past decade. He required state legislators to create a fifth majority-Black congressional district, located in west metro Atlanta.

Georgia’s Black population, including those who identify as Black and at least one other race, increased by 484,000 in the decade before 2020, while the state’s white-only population declined by 52,000, according to the U.S. census. Black residents account for 33% of Georgia’s population.

Staff writer Greg Bluestein contributed to this article.