Georgia Redistricting Map: DOA at the DOJ?

Gov. Nathan Deal.Erik Lesser/Zuma

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Georgia has the hopped aboard the redistricting bandwagon. On Thursday, Republican Gov. Nathan Deal and Attorney General Sam Olens filed a federal lawsuit against the Department of Justice, arguing that their new electoral maps for its state House, state Senate, and Congressional House races comply with the Voting Rights Act (VRA), the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports.

States re-draw their voting districts every ten years or so to reflect population changes indicated in the latest US Census data. Under Section Five of the VRA, Georgia is one of nine states required to pre-clear its maps (and other changes to election law) with the DOJ or the DC district court. These states, most of which reside in the South, have troubling records of disenfranchising their minority populations.

The trouble is, these states still can’t seem to get it right (see Texas, Alabama, and Arizona). But Deal and his fellow Georgia Republicans, who passed a tough new immigration law several months ago, are also asking the DOJ to pre-empt their lawsuit and approve the plan on their own. If they do so, Deal, et. al, will drop the suit. 

Democrats are calling BS, the Journal-Constitution reports:

House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams, D-Atlanta, said it does not matter to her if the state went first to the Justice Department or to court.

Republicans’ “violations of the Voting Rights Act…regardless of the route they take, the end result will be one that rejects maps that re-segregate Georgia,” she said.

Abrams said her party’s hopes for the maps’ rejection were bolstered recently by the Justice Department’s decision to challenge Texas’ redistricting plan and by a federal judge’s decision in Alabama to reject a challenge of the constitutionality of the Voting Rights Act.

“If one takes the Alabama decision from the courts and the Texas decision by the Justice Department together, it’s clear Georgia’s maps will face some very strong challenges,” she said.

Georgia is following the example set by Texas Republicans, who also took their case to court rather than trying to resolve it directly with the DOJ. Why? A DOJ under a Democratic president, the thinking goes, is unlikely to clear a GOP-drawn map, so a legal battle is the best option to get the GOP-friendly map they want.

And although Deal thinks his state has better odds in court, this is hardly an open-and-shut case. Look at previous states that mounted legal redistricting challenges: A district court judge threw out Alabama’s suit, and the DOJ found the Texas map to be racist. Georgia, then, is stuck between a rock and a VRA-upholding place.

 

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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