Skip to main content
Find a Lawyer
Please enter a legal issue and/or a location
Begin typing to search, use arrow keys to navigate, use enter to select

Find a Lawyer

More Options

Georgia Republicans' Redrawn Map Now Allowed, Raises Concerns for Other Minorities

By Vaidehi Mehta, Esq. | Last updated on

The end of the 2023 saw a victory for Republicans as a federal judge in Atlanta has now allowed the state Republican's new voting map to stand.

Just in October, the very same judge, District Judge Steve C. Jones, had ruled the opposite way. What changed, and what can we expect? Let's read on about the history of the Georgia voting case, and the implications it has for alike states ahead of the 2024 elections.

Jones Strikes Down Original Map

Judge Jones had just ruled on the state's voting maps a few months ago in a case called Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity v. Raffensperger. In that decision, he tossed out the Republican-drawn voting maps, which he accused of discriminating against Black voters. He ruled that they violated a landmark civil rights law by drawing maps that diluted the power of Black voters, who make up over 30% of the state.

The plaintiffs in the case were a coalition of individuals and organizations challenging the Georgia state legislature's redistricting plans for violating the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (VRA). The organizations jointly suing were Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, the Sixth District of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). Two black members of the church and another black resident registered to vote in Georgia also joined the suit. The named defendant was Brad Raffensperger, the Secretary of State of Georgia, who is responsible for overseeing elections and administering the state's voter registration system. Other defendants were the members of the State Election Board. These individuals, appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the General Assembly, are responsible for supervising elections and resolving election disputes.

Judge Jones's ruling was a 516-page decision — yes, you read that right. Since you probably don't want to read the entire order, here are the basics. The judge ordered new maps to be drawn, demanding fair representation for Black residents, and warned against further electoral use of unfair maps. He also set a tight deadline for the legislature to redraw them — December 8 of this year — and Georgia Governor Brian Kemp promptly called a special session to meet this deadline.

Republicans, who drew the maps to weaken Democrat influence, called the ruling a "power grab" and vowed to appeal. They argued Black voters remained influential, pointing to victories by Black Democratic Senators and Representatives. Critics of the maps, including the plaintiffs, countered that Georgia needed at least one more Black congressional district and more Black statehouse seats.

The U.S. Supreme Court's recent ruling in a related Alabama case called Allen v. Milligan also strengthened the plaintiffs' case. In that case, decided this past June, SCOTUS upheld Section 2 of the VRA in a surprising 5-4 decision involving Alabama's congressional map. This was a significant victory for voting rights advocates as it reaffirmed the key remaining tenet of the VRA, a landmark achievement of the civil rights movement.

Jones Now Rules the Other Way

In response to Judge Jones' order in October, the Georgia legislature (led by Republicans) held a special session earlier this month and drew new maps. Perhaps surprisingly, Democrats and Black voters objected to the new maps. Why? Well, apparently, they weren't actually as fair and Black voter-friendly as they expected.

While these new maps did create an additional majority-Black congressional district west of downtown Atlanta, they also hurt Black Georgians and Democrats in the sense that they effectively ousted a notable Black Congresswoman. Representative Lucy McBath of the Seventh Congressional District currently has a district map that makes up a big portion of Gwinnett and Fulton Counties in northeast Atlanta. The 7th District is a “majority-minority" district; the majority of its residents are nonwhite, but not majority Black. Hispanic and Asian voters make up a substantial part of the demographic.

With the new map, her district would fall into heavily Republican territory, which would effectively draw her out of a seat in the legislature. On the flip side, Republicans would maintain their four-seat majority under the new map, with no Republican representatives in danger of losing their seats.

But when the new map went up under Judge Jones' review, he allowed it to stand. He ruled that the legislature had since done enough to comply with the VRA, writing: “The court finds that the General Assembly fully complied with this court's order requiring the creation of a majority-Black congressional district in the region of the state where vote dilution was found."

Judge Jones was not indulging the arguments focusing on the majority-minority district issue. He pointed out that all the evidence at the trial focused on the Black voter issue, not on other minorities or “minority coalitions." He said that the plaintiffs would have to file a new lawsuit with new supporting evidence if they wanted to pursue the issue that non-Black minorities would be harmed under the new map.

The Upshot

Republican legislators had been pretty confident that the revised map would pass. Predictably, the most recent ruling has spurred concern about whether the VRA protects voters in districts like that of Rep. McBath (majority-minority districts) in the same way it protects districts composed mostly of one minority group.

Georgia isn't alone; it's only one of several states, many in the South, where legislators are accused of drawing congressional maps that appear to discriminate against Black voters. Other states, such as Texas, Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi, have similarly faced legal challenges and accusations of drawing voting maps that discriminate against Black voters. These challenges generally allege that the maps violate the VRA by diluting the voting power of Black residents, either by packing them into a few districts or spreading them too thinly across multiple districts, making it harder for them to elect their preferred candidates.

Was this helpful?

You Don’t Have To Solve This on Your Own – Get a Lawyer’s Help

Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.

Or contact an attorney near you:
Copied to clipboard