Redistricting Redux 2023
Traveling Theater: Next week legislators from all over Georgia will pack their bags and head to Atlanta for a Special Session of the Georgia General Assembly. It won’t last long, as there is a hard-stop curtain call of December 8th, the deadline set by a Federal District Court to produce new State House, State Senate and Congressional maps that don’t dilute Black voters.
The Backdrop: It should have been done right the first time, but the Republican controlled legislature thought that despite Georgia’s 13 percent growth in minority populations, they could get away with maintaining, and even growing, their current advantages. That’s called gerrymandering, and even though partisan gerrymandering is legal, racial gerrymandering is not.
The backdrop is a series of court cases starting with the 2013 Shelby County v. Holder decision, when the U.S. Supreme Court ended the federal voting oversight of southern states, making 2021 the first year Georgia did not have to submit redistricting maps for federal pre-clearance. This led to this year’s June ruling in Allen v. Milligan when Alabama was told by the U.S. Supreme Court to redraw their maps because they had “packed” Black voters into the same districts, while “cracking” smaller Black communities into white districts, resulting in fewer Black districts than population numbers support. Alabama squawked and clinched their fists at the court, but the Supreme Court stood firm, and now Georgia is in a similar place with a U.S. District Court. How much Georgia will push the limits is still to be seen. At the writing of this email, maps have still not been released.
The Plot Thickens: The players in this saga aren’t just Alabama and Georgia — the action could impact the balance of power in Congress, with similar court challenges in Florida, Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Utah.
The Director’s Chair: In late October, 2023, United States District Court Judge Steve Jones issued a 516-page Order stating that Georgia’s 2021 maps violate Section 2 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, directing the legislature to produce new maps that “unpack” and “uncrack” Black communities, increasing voices for Black voters through one additional Congressional district, five additional State House Districts, and two additional State Senate districts with Black majorities. The Order is very specific about which districts violate the Voting Rights Act, in addition to where and how the new districts are to be drawn. Expect Congressional and State House districts to change in the north Atlanta suburbs, State Senate districts to change in the south of Atlanta suburbs, and some changes to the State House map in the Macon area. Of course, once you open maps, anything can happen.
The Final Season: I will keep you posted as the week progresses, but understand that the maps produced next week might not be the final episode. Although Georgia decided not to “stay” the Federal Court decision, Republicans still plan to take the case to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. It’s actually possible that we could run on redrawn maps in 2024, reverting back to the original maps for 2026, should the appeal be successful. Nothing like a good cliff-hanger!
Action Needed! To continue receiving your Snapshot in your in-box, please make sure you are reading it with images turned on. If you don’t see the photo below of me standing with several of my colleagues at a fundraiser, then Substack doesn’t know you are reading it, and they might drop you from my list!
Thanks to Former State Senator Jen Jordan for hosting a Senate Democratic Fundraiser at her lovely Summerville Firm, LLC, to help raise funds to cover legal costs for the upcoming Special Session. Familiar faces include Congresswomen Nikema Williams and Lucy McBath, State Senators Elena Parent and myself, and Leader Gloria Butler. Can anyone guess who the big guy is in the middle?