by Shannon Mccaffrey And Greg Bluestein
Read the full article here.
…Sachin Varghese, a lawyer representing the state’s Legislative Black Caucus, said federal authorities had “failed to protect minority voters in Georgia from discrimination.”
“The Attorney General’s promise to vigorously enforce the Voting Rights Act was short lived,” Varghese said.
In a letter to state Attorney General Sam Olens, U.S. Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez said the office “does not interpose an objection to the specified changes.” But he said that the failure to object did not preclude a lawsuit challenging the changes.
The redrawn maps were approved by Georgia legislators in a three-week special session in August and Deal quickly signed them into law.
Georgia Republicans now control both chambers of the state Legislature and the governor’s mansion, as well as every other statewide office. This year marked the first time that Republicans controlled the redistricting process from start to finish.
In a role reversal, Democrats were the ones accusing Republicans of playing politics to consolidate political power.
The new state House maps create eight additional majority-black districts and set up 10 face-offs between incumbents from the same party.
The state’s rising population means Georgia gains an additional seat in the U.S. House. Republicans placed that district in the conservative northeast corner of the state, which heavily favors Republicans.
The congressional map adds a fourth majority-black district in southwest Georgia. It also radically redraws the 12th congressional district represented by John Barrow, the last white Democrat in the U.S. House from the Deep South. It moves Barrow into a neighboring district and makes the 12th more conservative; Barrow has pledged to run in the new district.
Georgia Democrats and their allies countered that Republicans “packed” black voters into certain districts, in effect limiting the ability of African-Americans to have more political influence and to form coalitions with others to select a candidate of their choice.
Olens, a Republican, said Friday that the responsible approach taken by the General Assembly during the redistricting process resulted in carefully drawn maps, which ensure that Georgia’s growing population will be fairly represented.”
Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act bans covered states and jurisdictions from diminishing black voters’ ability to elect the candidate of their choice _ saying essentially that once a state has built up minority voting power, it is illegal for the state to reduce that voting power.
Lawmakers must redraw legislative and congressional maps every 10 years to conform to population changes reflected in the Census. In all, the maps set boundaries for 236 state legislators and 14 U.S. House districts.