A trio of redistricting challenges in Georgia are set to advance to a trial this fall in the wake of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that Alabama’s 2022 congressional maps violated the Voting Rights Act.
The potential effect of last month’s Supreme Court decision on Georgia’s maps remains to be seen, but if the still-pending challenges here are successful, it could potentially send lawmakers back to the Gold Dome to draw new maps.
Federal Judge Steve C. Jones has allowed three separate but similar lawsuits in Georgia to proceed to trial together on Sept. 5.
Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, who is a defendant in all three cases, had tried to have the challenges dismissed. The state’s attorneys argued in a briefing last month that the Supreme Court’s ruling on Alabama’s maps provided little direction for what to do with Georgia’s cases.
Jones wrote in his order Monday that there are “material disputes of fact and credibility determinations” that warrant examination.
“Additionally, given the gravity and importance of the right to an equal vote for all American citizens, the Court will engage in a thorough and sifting review of the evidence that the Parties will present in this case at a trial,” Jones said.
The President Barack Obama-nominated judge ruled early last year that the 2022 elections should be held under the new maps because of the then-fast-approaching midterms, but he described it at the time as a “difficult decision.”
A spokesman for Raffensperger declined to comment Tuesday on pending litigation.
The lawyers for one of the plaintiffs, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, celebrated the judge’s decision Tuesday.
“We look forward to presenting evidence at trial to ensure that Georgia voters have fair maps in advance of the 2024 election cycle,” said Rahul Garabadu, senior voting rights staff attorney at the ACLU of Georgia, which is working with the Washington, D.C.-based WilmerHale law firm on the case.
Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity’s lawsuit challenges the state House and Senate district maps and argues that there should have been more than a half dozen new Black-majority districts drawn to reflect Georgia’s growing Black population.
Another lawsuit in the trio challenges the congressional map, which gave Republicans another seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. Of Georgia’s 14 congressional seats, Republicans now represent nine of them, up from eight last year.
State lawmakers met during a special session in late 2021 to carve up new districts using the 2020 U.S. Census headcount, which was delayed by the pandemic. The maps were approved along party-line votes.
In Alabama, state lawmakers are meeting this week to draw a new congressional map. House and Senate Republicans approved two different congressional maps in committees on Tuesday, potentially creating a conflict just days ahead of a deadline to submit proposals to a federal court, reports the Alabama Reflector.
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