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 under way in nearly a dozen states that could determine whether the GOP retains its narrow majority in the US House after next year’s election.
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 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 set a December 8 deadline for state lawmakers to craft new maps.
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 congressional maps are pending from New York to Utah.