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Federal judge approves new GOP-drawn congressional map in Georgia

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A federal judge in Georgia granted approval on Thursday to a newly redrawn congressional map proposed by the state’s GOP-led legislature. This decision comes after the original voting lines were deemed to be in violation of federal voting rights law.

U.S. District Judge Steve Jones, in a 15-page order, expressed satisfaction that the General Assembly had “fully complied” with his previous directive issued in October.

This directive mandated the establishment of a majority-Black congressional district in the western part of metro Atlanta. The endorsed map maintains the Republicans’ 9-5 advantage in the congressional delegation, setting the stage for its implementation in the upcoming 2024 election.

Judge Jones also sanctioned revised legislative maps for state Senate and House districts, which were initially found to be crafted in a racially discriminatory manner. In an earlier ruling, the judge had stipulated that state lawmakers must redraw two new Black-majority districts in Georgia’s state Senate and five new Black-majority districts in its state House.

The Republican-led General Assembly and Governor were given until December 8th by Judge Jones to rectify the violations of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act through redistricting plans. Responding to this deadline, state lawmakers convened for a special session in late November and successfully passed the new congressional and legislative district lines, subsequently signed into law by Governor Brian Kemp this month.

The finalized congressional map, completed ahead of Judge Jones’ deadline, not only preserves the Republicans’ majority but also brings substantial changes to the district represented by Democratic Rep. Lucy McBath, the 7th Congressional District. This alteration includes the creation of a new majority-Black district west of metro Atlanta, situated in parts of Cobb, Douglas, and Fulton Counties.

Despite objections from a group of voters who contested the original redistricting plans crafted in 2021, claiming that the remedial plan violated Section 2 and the October order, Judge Jones dismissed their concerns. He noted that while the General Assembly had drawn the new congressional voting boundaries to safeguard their majority, such decisions, made with a partisan advantage in mind, do not alone violate Section 2.

The redistricting dispute in Georgia carries national implications, particularly as one of several legal battles in the southeastern United States that could impact Democrats’ efforts to regain control of the House in the 2024 general elections. Similar challenges in Alabama and Louisiana also hold the potential for Democrats to gain seats as a result of legal challenges to congressional maps drawn post the 2020 Census.

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