On October 23, US District Court Judge Steve Jones ruled that Georgia must draw new voting maps before the 2024 elections. While this is monumental for Democratic prospects in the State House and Senate, Republicans already say they plan to appeal the order.
Judge Jones’s ruling finds the Republican legislature drew voting maps in “a racially discriminatory manner.” Between 2010 and 2020, Georgia’s Black population grew by about 484,000 people, while the white population declined. Despite Georgia’s population growth being due to an increasing minority population, the number of majority-Black congressional and legislative districts remained unchanged.
Although it is “legal” to draw voting maps with considerations of partisanship, the 14th and 15th Amendments safeguards citizens' rights by prohibiting them to be drawn on the basis of race. Unfortunately, the delineation between race and partisanship in the United States is often muddy, with race often being politicized.
The ruling ordered the creation of one new majority black US House District, 5 state House seats, and 2 state Senate seats. These new seats will predominantly be located in Atlanta, with one state House seat in Atlanta’s western suburbs, two House seats in Atlanta’s southern suburbs, and two Senate seats in Atlanta’s southern suburbs. They will also impact the Macon area, adding two new House districts.
Republicans currently have a 102-78 majority in the Georgia State House of Representatives, but these new maps change the dynamics of the assembly. With the promise of 5 new majority-Black seats, we are hopeful in accelerating our efforts to flip the House to a Democratic majority. Ending the 19 years of Republican control of the state legislature would bring the advent of progressive legislation designed to help all Georgians, and Judge Jones’s ruling brings us closer to this future.
Judge Jones’ ruling reinforces what we already know: that Republicans illegally drew maps on the basis of race, unfairly disadvantaging Black Georgians. This ruling offers a promising future for our state House, and reminds us of the importance of protecting democracy. The old maps have already directly limited democracy in Georgia, as they were used in the 2022 midterm elections. The dedication of plaintiffs and their lawyers’ to fight for Georgia’s future exemplifies the value of continuing to fight for democracy, and should inspire us all to persevere through challenges posed by the Republican party.
While we’re focused on Georgia, this hope is not limited to our state alone. The US Supreme Court reiterated its interpretation of the Voting Rights Act in an Alabama case earlier this year, which has spurred many other cases similar to the one Judge Jones just ruled on in Alabama, Florida, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, New Mexico, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Utah. Unjustly drawn maps directly threaten the power of our democracy, and residents in these aforementioned states are fighting for their constitutional right to free and fair elections.