Georgia has enacted new state House and state Senate district lines, concluding its once-in-a-decade redistricting process. The state’s new maps systematically water down the political strength of Black Georgians, ensuring that despite the tremendous growth in Georgia’s Black population, Black voters in Georgia will have few, if any, new political opportunities in their state’s House and Senate.
Our state legislatures write most of the day-to-day rules that structure our elections, schools, healthcare systems, criminal justice systems, and more. What Georgia did here — minimizing the power of Black communities to elect representatives who will advocate for policies that respond to their interests in the Georgia General Assembly — was illegal and wrong. That’s why last week, the ACLU and our partners in the region filed a lawsuit to challenge these unfair maps within minutes of Gov. Brian Kemp signing them into law.
Georgia is one of the fastest growing states in the nation, and that growth has been driven entirely by Black Georgians and other Georgians of color. The growth of the state’s Black and other minority communities is driving Georgia’s continued economic expansion and its increasing prominence on the national stage. It is also changing the face of politics in Georgia. Over the last decade, Georgia’s Black population grew by 16 percent — almost half a million people — while the population of white Georgians fell during the same period. Those who have held power in state government are undoubtedly worried that the growth of communities of color in the state means that their days are numbered. And the stunning result in the 2020 election and special election, due in large part to unprecedented Black turnout, have heightened those fears.
Against that backdrop, the new legislative maps for Georgia’s General Assembly were rushed through the legislative process in the week and a half leading up to Thanksgiving with virtually no meaningful opportunity for debate or public comment. These new maps do not reflect the tremendous growth of Georgia’s Black population over the last decade. Instead, they minimize the political power of Black Georgians in violation of federal law.
Georgia’s growing Black population could easily support more than a half-dozen additional new Black-majority state Senate and state House districts in areas where Black voters, despite voting cohesively, have previously been unable to elect candidates of their choice. These include new Black-majority districts in areas around metro Atlanta, Augusta, Southwestern Georgia, and potentially elsewhere across the state. But instead, in those regions and others, the state drew lines that unnecessarily “pack” large numbers of Black voters into a smaller number of districts, and “crack” or dissect growing Black populations in places like metro Atlanta.
These lines ensure that Black Georgians in the affected areas will be outvoted by white majorities, rather than included with their neighbors in new majority-Black districts. Thus, despite their communities’ growth over the past decade, Black Georgians will have few new political opportunities in the state legislature under the new maps. Indeed, the number of Black-majority districts in Georgia will remain more or less frozen in the same place under the state’s illegal plan — in spite of the seismic shifts in the state’s population.
Georgia can and must do better than this. The state’s manipulation of the redistricting process to dilute the voting strength of Black voters robs fellow citizens of the ability to engage in politics with equal dignity and equal opportunity. By diluting the political strength of Black voters, Georgia’s newly enacted legislative maps violate Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, also known as the VRA.
The VRA is the crown jewel of the Civil Rights Movement — a hard won and sweeping national reform that sought to replace the disenfranchisement and racial discrimination of the Jim Crow era with a true multiracial democracy. Both Democratic and Republican legislators and presidents have repeatedly reauthorized and expanded the VRA.
The VRA has always applied to redistricting, and Section 2 of the VRA explicitly bars any redistricting scheme whereby members of a racial minority group “have less opportunity than other members of the electorate to participate in the political process and to elect representatives of their choice.” When a state draws district lines that deny racial minorities an equal opportunity to elect candidates of their choice, that is vote dilution. These new maps do exactly that.
All Americans deserve fair and equal political representation. The people of Georgia deserve far better than these unfair, racially discriminatory electoral maps, and we won’t stop fighting until they are blocked.