A federal judge on Thursday ordered Georgia to draw new congressional and state legislative maps, ruling that state legislators improperly diluted the political power of Black voters in establishing those boundaries following the 2020 census.
The ruling by US District Judge Steve Jones could result in Democrats securing an additional seat in the US House from Georgia. Republicans currently hold nine slots in the state’s 14-member congressional delegation.
The Peach State litigation is among several legal and political fights underway in nearly a dozen states that could determine whether the GOP retains its narrow majority in the US House after next year’s elections.
In his ruling, Jones said Georgia’s Republican-controlled legislature had violated the Voting Rights Act, the nation’s landmark civil rights law, in establishing district lines.
“The Court commends Georgia for the great strides that it has made to increase the political opportunities of Black voters in the 58 years since the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965,” Jones wrote. “Despite these great gains, the Court determines that in certain areas of the State, the political process is not equally open to Black voters.”
He noted that minorities accounted for “all” of the state’s population growth in the past decade but said that “the number of majority-Black congressional and legislative districts remained the same.”
Jones, who set a December 8 deadline for state lawmakers to craft new maps, ordered the legislature to draw an additional majority-Black congressional district in the western part of the Atlanta metro area, along with creating two more state Senate districts and five additional state House districts with Black majorities.
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp on Thursday called a November 29 special session for lawmakers to work on new maps and a handful of other issues.
Democrats and voting rights groups immediately hailed Jones’ decision.
US Rep. Nikema Williams, the chairwoman of the Democratic Party of Georgia, called the ruling a “resounding victory” for democracy.
“Republicans knew they couldn’t win on their ideas, so they resorted to redrawing the maps in their favor instead,” she said in a statement. “Today’s decision confirms what Georgia Democrats already knew: Georgia Republicans’ attempts to hold onto power via voter suppression and racial gerrymandering will not stand.”
Josh McKoon, the chairman of the state GOP, cast the decision as a “naked power grab by partisan Democratic allies on the federal bench.”
Jones was nominated by former President Barack Obama, joining the bench in 2011.
“It is simply outrageous that one far-left federal judge is invalidating the will of the elected representatives of the people of Georgia who drew fair maps in conformity with longstanding legal principles,” McKoon said in the a statement posted on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter.
A spokesperson for Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr – whose office has defended the legislature’s maps in court – said officials were reviewing Jones’ order.
The Georgia decision comes one day after the Republican-controlled legislature in North Carolina approved a congressional map that could help the GOP flip at least three US House seats now held by Democrats.
Legal fights over other congressional maps are pending across the country, from New York to Utah.
This story has been updated with additional information.
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