Georgia Republicans advance House and Senate maps as Congress’ proposal waits in the wings

Georgia Republicans advance House and Senate maps as Congress’ proposal waits in the wings

Georgia Republicans on Thursday rolled out new legislative maps that would preserve their majorities in the state House and Senate, while they have yet to reveal how they will redraw Georgia’s 14 congressional districts.

A state Senate committee voted 7-5 along party lines to advance a new Senate map, while a House committee voted 9-5 to advance a new House map. The bills are presented to their full chambers, where they could be debated on Friday.

Democrats and some outside groups targeted the Senate map as particularly flawed, saying it failed to create significant opportunities for Black voters in the 10 districts a federal judge identified as violating the law. But Democrats also question the House map, in part because it would change or eliminate two districts where no racial group is a majority.

Lawmakers are meeting in special session after U.S. District Judge Steve Jones ruled in October that Georgia’s legislative and congressional maps violated federal law by diluting the power of black voters. Jones ordered Georgia lawmakers to draw additional majority-black districts, including one in Congress, two in the state Senate and five in the state House.

Republicans proposed maps that would create the required additional number of black majority districts. Because black voters in Georgia strongly support Democrats, this could strengthen the party’s position. But Republicans proposed other changes to limit their losses. The proposed Senate map would likely maintain the current 33-23 Republican margin by shuffling districts so that two Democratic-controlled districts are majority-black instead. The House, which now has 102 votes to 78 Republican votes, could gain additional Democrats because of the five new black districts. But changes in one or two of the competitive House districts controlled by Democrats could tip the balance in Republicans’ favor.

Democrats said the Senate map failed because it did not provide much opportunity for black voters to elect new senators in the 10 districts that Jones found illegal.

“When you have to create a majority-minority district, you can’t do that by moving people into other districts where no voter discrimination has been found,” said Sen. Elena Barnett, an Atlanta Democrat. “It did not address where the court said voter discrimination existed and that the process was not equally open to black voters.”

The mother herself would lose her majority-white district in suburban DeKalb County and instead be drawn into a majority-black district.

However, Republicans objected to the Senate map presented by Democrats, noting that an analysis by Fair Districts GA, a group that advocates for redistricting, found that Democrats would likely win two additional seats, reducing the Republican advantage in the Senate. To 31 seats. 25.

“So, is it purely coincidental that the Democratic map creates two new Democratic districts, giving a partisan advantage, while the President’s map left it exactly like the current political divide in the state?” asked Sen. Bill Cosert, a Republican from Athens.

This is a major issue because the US Supreme Court has ruled that partisan gerrymandering is legal and that federal courts should not intervene to prevent it. Only minority voters are protected under the Voting Rights Act.

In the House, Democratic Minority Leader James Beverly of Macon has indicated that if Jones refuses to accept maps passed by Republicans, he will appoint a special master to draw maps on behalf of the court and may not pay attention to incumbency or political considerations.

“So every one of us, 180 people, is at risk,” Beverly warned, showing a map of the Democratic House.

Republicans pointed out that one of the new districts proposed in the Democratic plan has only 48% black voters, less than the majority identified by Jones. Democrats argued that Jones would be more likely to accept the map. But House Redistricting and Redistricting Committee Chairman Rob Leverett, a Republican from Elberton, was skeptical.

“We can’t verify all five of the new majority-black districts,” Leverett said of the Democratic plan.

This story was originally published November 30, 2023, 2:12 p.m.

(Tags for translation) Georgia redistricted black districts in the House, Senate, and Congress

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