Judge rejects Georgia’s attempts to dismiss redistricting lawsuits

Three lawsuits challenging Georgia’s new political maps survived their first hurdles in federal court.

U.S. District Judge Steve Jones on Thursday denied motions to dismiss the cases over Georgia’s redistricting of congressional and state legislative seats.

The lawsuits allege that Georgia’s redistricting in the fall violated the Voting Rights Act’s protections against discrimination of Black voters, weakening their voting strength by splitting populations into different districts. Defendants for the state of Georgia disagree, saying the new districts are fair.

The cases were filed by a variety of civil rights, religious and political groups soon after Gov. Brian Kemp signed new redistricting plans into law.

The maps, approved on party-line votes by the Republican majority in the General Assembly, were shaped in a way that positions the GOP to potentially gain a seat in Congress after this year’s elections. Republicans currently hold an 8-6 advantage among Georgia’s congressional delegation.

Attorneys for the state had argued that the cases should be dismissed because they were assigned to Jones instead of a three-judge panel of judges.

But Jones ruled that federal law doesn’t always mandate three judges in redistricting cases.

“The plain language only requires a three-judge court to hear cases challenging the constitutionality of a statewide legislative body, not purely statutory challenges to the apportionment of a statewide legislative body,” Jones wrote.

Besides the three cases Jones ruled on, two other redistricting lawsuits that were previously assigned to three-judge panels are also pending.