Judge Thwarts GOP Attempt To Fast-Track Georgia Voter Suppression


As reported by the voting rights organization Democracy Docket, a Georgia federal judge has “rejected attempts to dismiss ongoing lawsuits challenging the state’s new congressional and legislative maps,” which were signed into law late last year by Republican Governor Brian Kemp. As previously explained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the new Congressional district map includes nine Republican-leaning districts and just five that lean towards the Democrats — although Joe Biden won the state in the last presidential election, meaning that the set-up does not appear to accurately reflect the political composition of the state. Of course, shortly after Biden was victorious there, Democrats yet again prevailed, winning both of the state’s U.S. Senate seats early last year.

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R) is a defendant in five court cases that were filed over Georgia’s new Congressional and state legislative district lines, and he sought to get three of the cases dismissed — which is the effort that the federal judge has now rejected. As summarized by Democracy Docket, the original cases allege that the new maps violate the federal law known as the Voting Rights Act “by diluting the voting strength of Georgians of color, particularly Black Georgians, and denying these voters an equal chance to participate in the political process.” Among other issues, the Congressional district map that Georgia Republicans enacted dramatically reshapes the state’s 6th Congressional district, which is currently represented by Rep. Lucy McBath (D), who is Black. The new map slashes portions of DeKalb and Fulton counties from McBath’s district, tacking the remnants of the district onto a nearby Republican area.

As explained by Democracy Docket, Raffensperger had argued that plaintiffs needed to request a three-judge panel to hear their challenges, a move that’s required for claims regarding the constitutionality of certain redistricting plans — but the challenges hinge on the Voting Rights Act rather than the Constitution, the judge noted. Raffensperger also claimed that the portions of the Voting Rights Act that have been referenced by those behind these challenges don’t allow private individuals to bring court cases under the provisions at issue, but the judge handling this matter concluded that plaintiffs “can assert these claims because for the past forty-five years the Supreme Court and lower courts have allowed private individuals to assert challenges under Section 2 of the [Voting Rights Act].” Thus, the cases can proceed.

Although there’s still a substantial path ahead for these particular court proceedings, there have already been multiple successes in challenging GOP-backed gerrymandering elsewhere. In both Ohio and Alabama, courts have rejected certain GOP plans for redistricting, demanding that more fair replacements be put forward. Gerrymandering refers to politically manipulating the process of drawing legislative district lines in order to better favor certain groups. Spreading communities across as many districts as possible, for instance, can impact the ability of these communities to effectively make their voices heard in the electoral process if they’re kept from comprising the majority in these districts.