(Headline USA) The far-left activists who successfully sued to overturn Georgia’s congressional and state legislative districts told a federal judge on Wednesday thatRepublican state lawmakers’ newly redrawn map should likewise be rejected because it could potentially cost a firebrand Democrat lawmaker her seat.
The plaintiffs argued before U.S. District Judge Steve Jones in an hourslong hearing in Atlanta that the new maps don’t increase opportunities for black voters to elect their chosen candidates. They also claimed the maps did not remedy vote dilution in the particular areas of suburban Atlanta that a trial earlier this year had focused on.
“The state of Georgia is playing games,” said lawyer Abha Khanna.
“We’re going to make you chase us all over the state from district to district to achieve an equal opportunity for black voters,” he said. “It’s a constant game of whack-a-mole.”
But an attorney for the state argued that lawmakers added the black-majority districts that Jones ordered in October, including one in Congress, two in the state Senate and five in the state House.
The state said that the plaintiffs’ dislike of the legislature’s choices—which would likely preserve GOP majorities—do not let the judge step in and draw his own maps.
“Clearly the state added the additional district,” Bryan Tyson said of the congressional plan. “That’s the cure to the vote dilution injury.”
Jones indicated he would rule quickly, saying he’s been told the state needs the maps by Jan. 16 for the 2024 elections to occur on time. If he refuses to adopt the state’s maps Jones could appoint a special master to draw maps for the court.
Arguments on the congressional map focused, as expected, on whether it’s legal for lawmakers to dissolve Democratic U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath’s current district in the Atlanta suburbs of Gwinnett and Fulton counties—while at the same time they were drawing a new black-majority district west of downtown Atlanta in Fulton, Douglas, Cobb and Fayette counties.
McBath could have to switch districts for the second time in two years after the first district where she won election was made decidedly more Republican.
Khanna insisted that the most important question was whether black voters would have an “additional” district where they could elect their choice of candidate, as Jones ordered.
She said the total number of such districts statewide would stay at five of 14, instead of rising to six. Georgia’s U.S. House delegation is currently split among nine Republicans and five Democrats.
Khanna also claimed that the state was committing a fresh violation of Section 2 of the federal Voting Rights Act, which is supposed to guarantee opportunities for minority voters, by wiping out the current 7th District. That district is majority nonwhite, but not majority black, with substantial shares of Hispanic and Asian voters as well.
But Jones seemed to undercut that argument when he declared that the case had focused on the rights of black voters and that there was no evidence submitted at trial about Asian and Hispanic voter behavior. He also said he was reluctant to rule on the claim of a new violation in such a short time frame.
Tyson, for his part, argued that federal law doesn’t protect coalitions of minority voters, saying it only protects one group, such as black or Hispanic voters, a point Jones questioned. Tyson repeatedly claimed the plaintiffs were mainly trying to elect Democrats
“Now the claim is ‘Oh, no, no, it’s about all minority voters,” Tyson said. “So we have continually shifting theory. At the end of the day, the only thing that’s consistent is protecting Democratic districts.”
One of the sets of challengers to Georgia’s legislative maps had different arguments, telling Jones that the state had failed in its duty because while it drew additional black-majority districts, it avoided drawing them in the parts of Atlanta’s southern and western suburbs where the plaintiffs had proved black voters were being harmed.
“If the remedy isn’t in the area where the vote dilution is identified, it doesn’t help the voters who are harmed,” attorney Ari Savitzky claimed.
He focused particularly on the lack of changes in key areas in the state Senate plan, saying no black voters in Fayette and Spalding counties and only a few thousand voters in Henry and Newton counties had been moved into majority black districts.
Instead, he said, Republican lawmakers added tens of thousands of black voters from areas farther north in Cobb, Fulton and DeKalb counties in creating two new black majority districts.
“This isn’t a new opportunity for Black voters in south metro Atlanta,” Savitzky said. “It’s a shell game.”
Adapted from reporting by the Associated Press