ATLANTA — Voting rights organizations and a group of Georgia voters filed a federal lawsuit Friday challenging new congressional district lines the Republican-controlled General Assembly drew during a special session last fall.
The suit claims the new boundaries for Georgia’s 6th, 13th and 14th congressional districts unlawfully diminish the voting strength of voters of color.
“The Georgia legislature has ‘cracked’ and ‘packed’ communities of color in the congressional districts map, denying voters of color an equal voice in elections,” said Jack Genberg, senior staff attorney for the Southern Poverty Law Center. “This map must be remedied to prevent harm to Georgia’s communities of color for years to come.”
The legal challenge to the congressional map follows a lawsuit filed last month making similar arguments in opposition to new state House and Senate maps Republican lawmakers drew over the objections of legislative Democrats.
The new lawsuit charges the newly drawn congressional map violates the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution by intentionally denying Black communities in Georgia representation and, therefore, equal protection under the law.
Specifically, the plaintiffs accuse GOP legislative leaders of shifting voters of color out of Democratic U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath’s 6th Congressional District in Atlanta’s northern suburbs and replacing them with white voters from suburban and rural counties further north.
McBath, D-Marietta, responded to the changes by declaring her candidacy for the 7th Congressional District seat, pitting her against incumbent Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux, D-Lawrenceville, in May’s Democratic primary.
On the other hand, according to the suit, Republicans pieced together Black voters from six counties to pack the 13th Congressional District served by Rep. David Scott, D-Atlanta, reducing Black voting strength in surrounding districts.
The suit also objects to a move late in the special redistricting session to draw voters from predominantly Black portions of Cobb County into the 14th Congressional District of conservative Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Rome, made up primarily of white rural voters.
“Georgia's political maps must reflect the interests of the people - not the politicians,” said Aunna Dennis, executive director of Common Cause Georgia. “These maps intentionally discriminate against Georgians of color by silencing our voices at the ballot box.”
The League of Women Voters is also a plaintiff in the case.
During the special session, Republicans cited the need to balance the populations of each congressional district within a single voter in drawing a new map that is expected to help the GOP build its majority in Georgia’s congressional delegation from 8-6 to 9-5.
State legislature across the country redraw legislative and congressional maps every 10 years to reflect changes in population reflected in the decennial U.S. Census.