A federal judge in Georgia signed off Thursday on congressional districts redrawn this month by the state’s Republican-led legislature, ruling that the new map did not continue to illegally dilute the power of Black voters as Democrats and civil rights groups have argued.
“The Court finds that the General Assembly fully complied with this Court’s order requiring the creation of Black-majority districts in the regions of the State where vote dilution was found,” wrote U.S. District Judge Steve C. Jones of the Northern District of Georgia.
The ruling by Jones, an appointee of President Barack Obama, is likely to maintain the 9-5 majority that Republicans hold in Georgia’s delegation to the U.S. House. Georgia is among several states where challenges to congressional maps could affect the makeup of the U.S. House next year.
In October, Jones found that Georgia’s congressional map, which was previously redrawn by Republican lawmakers in 2021, violated the Voting Rights Act, writing that Black voters in Georgia have “suffered significant harm.”
In response to that ruling, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) ordered the General Assembly to convene a special session starting Nov. 29 to redraw the maps. On Dec. 8, Kemp signed into law a new congressional map.
The map added a new majority-Black district on Atlanta’s west side. But it significantly altered a majority non-White district represented by Rep. Lucy McBath (D-Ga.) in a way that Democrats say is designed to be favorable to Rep. Richard McCormick (R-Ga.).
Georgia lawmakers rejected a plan drawn by Democrats that would have protected McBath’s district and combined McCormick’s with one already represented by a Republican.
At a hearing last week before Jones, Democrats argued that the Republican-passed map did not comply with the judge’s original order and did not give Black voters sufficient power.
In a statement Thursday, the Democratic Party of Georgia said it was “disappointed” in the judge’s ruling.
“Georgia Democrats fought hard for maps that would ensure Black voters had a fair chance to make their voices heard, but Republicans once again played partisan games with redistricting,” Kevin Olasanoye, the group’s executive director, said in a statement. “While we respect the court’s ruling, we are more committed than ever to ending Republicans’ days of diluting minority voting power via gerrymandering.”
McBath, who was reelected in 2022 with 61 percent of the vote, has vowed to try to stay in Congress regardless of the reconfigured map.