Georgia Redistricting Map: DOA at the DOJ?
By Siddhartha Mahanta
October. 7, 2011
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
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
Democrats are calling BS, the Journal-Constitution
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
"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-
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