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Special Session Leaves Partisan Composition Relatively Unchanged

As we discussed in our previous article, Georgia is getting new maps for the 2024 election cycle. This was largely due to Georgia’s maps violating the Voting Rights Act. While political gerrymanders were ruled legal by the Supreme Court, the VRA blocks legislatures from drawing districts on racial bounds that prevent a racial voting bloc from having the chance to elect their preferred candidate.

State Senate

While the special session didn’t officially begin until November 29th, Republicans wasted no time in announcing their preferred version of the new State Senate map two days prior to the beginning of the special session. These Republican-drawn maps technically resolve some of the VRA violations present in the old maps while largely keeping the status quo unchanged. 


Under the new maps, passed along party lines, the partisan split of districts (33R - 23 D) will remain identical. This is largely being done by dismantling districts that are currently left-leaning and majority-white in order to create new left-leaning majority-black districts. This represents a small step towards adequate representation in the State Senate for black Georgians; however, if these maps are allowed to stand, repression of minority voters will continue unabated.


The Republican maps did not alter some districts, including sixteen and thirty-four. These districts were specifically identified by Judge Jones’s court ruling to be violating the VRA. This blatant disregard for the October court ruling could potentially be overruled, with the distinct possibility that Judge Jones could refuse to accept the maps that passed in their current state in his hearing on the new maps on December 20th.

State House

Republicans also proposed and passed a new State House map. Like the State Senate map, it limits attempts at change, and is also likely to face a legal challenge. 


In his ruling, Judge Jones found that 11 of the 180 House districts violated the Voting Rights Act and ordered the legislature to draw five new Black-majority districts. In order to draw these new districts, Georgia Republicans altered the border of four majority-white districts currently held by Democrats. This is a deliberate maneuver by Republicans to limit Democratic representation, utilizing the fact that they can legally draw districts around partisan lines. 


The districts that will change are District 40, District 81, District 82, and District 101. They have been altered to create one new majority-Black district in Douglas County, two in Henry County, and two in Bibb County. Although this map creates five new districts, it is likely Democrats will only gain two seats. Other districts have been redrawn to force three sets of incumbent Democrats to run against each other. Democrats believe this map still violates the Voting Rights Act, and will wait to see how Judge Jones rules on this map before deciding their next steps.

Federal Congressional

In a 7-4 split, the Senate Reapportionment and Redistricting Committee voted to advance the Republican-backed proposed Congressional maps. Judge Jones’s October ruling called for a majority-Black congressional district in west-metro Atlanta after finding the initial map in violation of the Voting Rights Act, which bans discriminatory practices on the basis of race. The newly proposed map seeks to create a 6th congressional district, encompassing parts of Cobb, Douglas, Fulton, and Fayette counties. However, Republicans have skewed this decision to preserve their 9-5 congressional majority by fragmenting a Democratic district elsewhere, the 7th district held by Representative Lucy McBath. 


This marks the second time McBath has been affected by redistricting efforts in two years. In 2018, McBath flipped the 6th district, traditionally a Republican stronghold in the northern Atlanta suburbs, blue. Then, in 2020, Republicans redrew the map to expand north, increasing its white voting-age population by 66.63%. Consequently, McBath was pitted against incumbent Democrat Carolyn Bordeaux in the adjacent 7th district, resulting in McBath’s victory. Despite having no racial majority, the current 7th district, covering southern Gwinnett and northern Fulton county, boasts a 67% share of minority voters, who statistically vote Democrat. 

The proposed map would split this district into two Democrat and two Republican districts, once again diluting minority voters. Even though the new map creates five majority-Black districts compared to the current four, it goes against Jones’s instruction that “the State cannot remedy the Section 2 violations described herein by eliminating minority opportunity districts elsewhere in the plan.” This contradiction poses serious repercussions for fair representation, particularly when nearly half of Georgians have voted for Democrats in recent elections.

6 Days to Lock in 16 Years of Control?

When Judge Jones announced his decision, there was guarded optimism that Georgia Democrats might actually make sizable political gains in 2024. With maps that abided by the decision from Judge Jones, here’s what a reasonable forecast would have looked like:

State House: Democrats pick up 5 seats

State Senate: Democrats pick up 2 seats

Congressional: Democrats pick up 1 seat

Instead, here’s the revised forecast based on the new Republican-drawn maps:

State House: Democrats pick up 2 seats

State Senate: Democrats pick up 0 seats

Congressional: Democrats pick up 0 seats

This would have made a huge difference, especially in the State House, where Republicans hold a majority of 102-78. The road to controlling the State House just got 3 seats harder for Democrats, compared to how these maps should have been drawn.

A reminder: the transformative legislation (Democrats see Michigan and Minnesota as guides for what to do with majority power | AP News) we’ve seen in states like Michigan and Minnesota was only possible with both State Legislative chambers and the Governorship.

With the State Senate seemingly locked into a 33-23 Republican majority (it is possible there is ONE competitive district out of the 56 seats next year), Georgia Democrats have to flip the State House just to stop Republican extremism in its tracks. Forget about the transformative things like fully funding public education, building more affordable housing, addressing the climate crisis, the healthcare crisis, or restoring reproductive rights. And again, this just got 3 seats harder.

Republicans have used these 6 days in the Special Session to try and lock in their majority through the end of the decade – when they’ll get to draw more maps that take us through 2040. 6 days to try and lock in control for the next 16 years, if you will. Especially when you consider how rigged the whole map-drawing process is to begin with:

2022: Republicans draw illegal maps

2022: Republicans hold elections using illegal maps

2023: Republicans maps found to be illegal in court

2023: Republicans get to draw… more possibly illegal maps

Not much of a deterrent, is it? All of this to say that –

The case for year-round organizing has never been stronger

Georgia has undergone a remarkable transformation over the last decade. With a population increase exceeding one million, the state has seen a significant shift in its demographics. Over 95% of this population are people of color. We have elected two Democratic Senators, yet are looking at the possibility of 35 straight years of Republican control at the state level because of racial and partisan gerrymandering.

Year-round organizing is the best – and fastest – way to turn this burgeoning demographic shift into real, transformative political power, just like they did in Michigan.

Year-round organizing:

– exposes Republican extremism 365 days/years

– helps voters know who’s responsible for what

– creates new Democratic coalitions - ones that can beat rigged maps

Just this summer there was Medicaid unwinding, SNAP unwinding, and voter purges by the Secretary of State. Hundreds of thousands of Georgians lost access to healthcare, food, and their right to vote. Because the legislature was coincidentally not in session, tying those responsible – Republicans – was virtually impossible given the lack of Democratic political infrastructure across the state. A problem that year-round organizing solves. Organizers can also be trained to guide folks through the bureaucratic process, enabling anyone disenfranchised by these shameful Republican tactics to regain their status and rights.

We’ve made the larger case for year-round organizing before, but the Special Session really hammers home the point – Georgia Republicans are going to do everything in their power to shape the future of this state. It’s time for Georgia Democrats to do the same, and that means no more off years, no more uncontested elections, and no more “waiting for the demographics to shift”. The demographics have shifted – it’s time to act.

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