A Republican-dominated legislative committee approved a new congressional map for Georgia Monday over objections that it doesn’t comply with a federal court order that found the current map violates the Voting Rights Act.
The proposed map, approved by the Senate Reapportionment and Redistricting Committee along party lines, would create an additional Black-majority district as U.S. District Judge Steve Jones ordered in an October ruling.
But in doing so, Republicans would transform an adjacent district currently dominated by minority voters – including Blacks, Hispanics and Asian Americans – that could be expected to elect a minority candidate into a heavily white district.
“We have eliminated a minority-opportunity district, which goes completely against the judge’s order,” Senate Minority Whip Harold Jones, D-Augusta, told committee members shortly before Monday’s vote.
The proposed map would include significant changes to Georgia Congressional District 6. The new 6th District would include much of central and South Fulton County, South Cobb County, eastern Douglas County, and northern Fayette County. As a result, the district’s Black voting-age population would be 51.75%.
The 7th Congressional District, which covers the southern half of Gwinnett County and a portion of Fulton County under a map the General Assembly drew in 2021, would move completely out of Gwinnett into a larger part of North Fulton; all of Forsyth, Dawson, and Lumpkin counties; eastern Cherokee County and western Hall County. It would have a white voting-age population of 75%.
Ken Lawler, co-chairman of Fair Districts GA, a nonpartisan organization that encourages fairness and transparency in redistricting, said altering District 7’s racial makeup from 67% minority voters to 75% white, would not pass muster with Judge Jones.
“By losing District 7 as a minority district … it does not meet the requirements of the court order,” he said.
Cindy Battles, director of policy and engagement with the Georgia Coalition for the People’s Agenda, said the Republican map targets Democratic U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath, who currently represents the 7th District, in a partisan attempt to maintain the GOP’s 9-5 margin in the state’s congressional delegation.
Georgia voters are currently evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats, which the proposed map fails to reflect, she said.
Battles also complained that the proposed map splits racially diverse Gwinnett County four ways, between districts 4, 9, 10, and 13.
“Dividing this county four different ways is diminishing (minorities’) voting capacity,” she said.
But Sen. Shelly Echols, R-Gainesville, the committee’s chair, said the Republican map complies with the court order by creating an additional Black-majority congressional district in western portions of metro Atlanta. Echols referred to a series of pages in Jones’ 516-page order that refer to Black-minority districts – not coalition or minority-opportunity districts – as his goal.
“The Voting Rights Act protects distinct minority groups, not coalitions,” Echols said.
The congressional map is expected to reach the Senate floor for a vote later today.
Dave Williams writes for Capitol Beat News Service