(The Center Square) — A federal court has ruled that Georgia’s congressional and state legislative maps violate a section of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
U.S. District Judge Steve C. Jones ruled that Georgia lawmakers must redraw the districts by Dec. 8.
“This timeline balances the relevant equities and serves the public interest by providing the General Assembly with its rightful opportunity to craft a remedy in the first instance, while also ensuring that, if an acceptable remedy is not produced, there will be time for the Court to fashion one—as the Court will not allow another election cycle on redistricting plans that the Court has determined on a full trial record to be unlawful,” Jones wrote.
Jones handed down his 516-page ruling in three lawsuits voters filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia against Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and Georgia State Election Board members in December 2021 and January 2022. Though the cases were not consolidated, the judge heard all three concurrently during an eight-day trial.
“Frederick Douglass once said, ‘Power concedes nothing without a demand,'” Bishop Reginald T. Jackson, the presiding prelate of the Sixth Episcopal District of the African Methodist Episcopal Church and a plaintiff, said in a statement.
“Together, the people of Georgia and our justice system have now demanded that those in power must right these wrongs and I sincerely hope that the process of now redrawing Georgia’s districts is done swiftly, thoroughly, and complies with the letter of the law,” Jackson added. “The results of this decision clearly show that doing what is right is far more critical than holding power.”
In his ruling, Jones indicated state lawmakers should create an additional majority-Black congressional district, two additional majority-Black state Senate districts and five additional majority-Black state House districts.
Spokespeople for Gov. Brian Kemp, Attorney General Chris Carr and Raffensperger, all Republicans, did not respond to a request for comment.
“The Majority party went to great lengths to draw maps that were legal, fair, compact, and kept communities of interest together,” Georgia Senate Republicans said in a statement posted to X.com, formerly Twitter. “Obviously, we strongly disagree with the ruling and expect that all legal options will be explored to maintain the maps as passed by the legislature.”
In a statement, Greater Georgia Chairwoman Kelly Loeffler, a former Republican U.S. senator, said the organization “expects a successful appeal and that partisan efforts to undermine our state’s legislative and congressional races ahead of 2024 will be dismissed.”
The Georgia Redistricting Alliance, a workgroup of ProGeorgia, a coalition of 61 nonprofit organizations, called the ruling “a win for not just Georgia but for the integrity of voting rights protections that advocates have fought to protect for decades.”
“The redistricting process is designed to be collaborative, transparent, and, most importantly, accurate,” the group said. “We urge legislators to use this opportunity to uplift the voices of communities of color and accurately capture Georgia’s bustling diversity.”
By T.A. DeFeo | The Center Square contributor