ATLANTA, Ga. (WRBL) – The Georgia chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union has filed a federal lawsuit over district maps approved by the state General Assembly in November, claiming the new district lines unfairly diminish the power of minority voters.
The lawsuit, filed in a joint effort between the ACLU and D.C.-based law firm WilmerHale, comes immediately on the heels of Governor Brian Kemp’s approval of the maps on Thursday.
“The challenged maps were approved by the General Assembly before Thanksgiving, over a month ago,” an ACLU spokesperson said in a statement released Dec. 30, “yet the Governor delayed his formal signature until the last possible moment, dramatically shortening the time that courts will have to evaluate their legality before the March filing deadline for the 2022 primary elections.”
The new maps would potentially add a Republican member to Georgia’s congressional delegation, turning Atlanta’s currently-Democratic 6th District into a majority-Republican district.
The ACLU suit, filed on behalf of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., the Sixth District of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, and individual Georgia voters, claims the new maps violate Section 2 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which prohibits voting procedures that discriminate based on race.
The suit claims at least six majority-Black districts should have been added around metro Atlanta, Augusta, and Southwest Georgia to reflect changing demographic data reported in the U.S. census.
“There’s no legitimate justification for drawing maps that deny Black voters an opportunity to elect representatives who will fight for them in these critical state house deliberations,” said Sophia Lin Lakin, deputy director of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project. “Politicians don’t get to choose their voters — voters get to choose their politicians.”
Under the newly-drawn Senate district maps, Republicans are expected to lose one of their 34 state Senate seats. Republicans are also projected to lose five state House seats once the new House maps are implemented.
On Dec. 31, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger pushed back against the suit, as well as similar suits filed by Georgia State Conference of the NAACP, the Georgia Coalition for the People’s Agenda and the GALEO Latino Community Development Fund.
“Georgia’s maps are fair and adhere to traditional principles of redistricting,” Raffensperger said. “These lawsuits are nothing but politically-motivated actions from politically-motivated groups seeking to further their partisan preferences.”
Governor Kemp has not yet commented on the redistricting bills, or the suits challenging them.