New GOP-favored Georgia congressional map nears passage as the end looms for redistricting session

Dec 6, 2023, 12:36 PM

ATLANTA (AP) — A Georgia special session to redraw congressional and legislative voting district maps is likely to end Thursday after a House committee on Wednesday advanced a Republican-favored congressional map that targets Democratic U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath’s current district.

However, the wrangling is unlikely to end there, with those who brought the challenges that overturned the current maps likely to argue in court that Georgia’s Republican-controlled General Assembly has violated the federal court order that directed them to produce new maps.

The House Reapportionment and Redistricting Committee, with little debate, voted 9-4 on Wednesday to send the congressional map to the full House for a vote. The plan, which passed the state Senate 33-22 on Tuesday, seeks a wholesale reconfiguration of a suburban Atlanta district now represented by McBath.

Lawmakers were called into special session after U.S. District Judge Steve Jones ruled in October that Georgia’s congressional, state Senate and state House maps violate federal law by diluting Black voting power. Jones mandated Black majorities in one additional congressional district, two additional state Senate districts and five additional state House districts. Jones instructed lawmakers to create the new congressional district on metro Atlanta’s western side.

Republicans have already given final passage to a new state Senate map likely to retain Republicans’ current 33-23 majority in that chamber, and a new House map that could cut the GOP majority there by one or two seats from the current 102-78 margin.

Republicans say the plans meet Jones’ requirements to draw more majority-Black districts.

“Well, I’m optimistic or cautiously optimistic that we’ve done what the judge wants because we’ve complied with the text of his order,” House Reapportionment and Redistricting Committee Chairman Rob Leverett, an Elberton Republican, told reporters after the meeting.

The committee rejected a Democratic proposal that would have likely cut the Republican congressional margin by one seat to 8-6, by forcing Republican U.S. Rep. Andrew Clyde to run against either U.S. Rep. Rich McCormick or U.S. Rep. Mike Collins. They are both Republicans as well.

Democrats say they don’t believe Republicans are doing what Jones wanted.

“They’re still looking for power and not progress in the state of Georgia,” said House Minority Leader James Beverly, a Macon Democrat.

The GOP congressional map creates a new majority-Black district in parts of Fulton, Douglas, Cobb and Fayette counties on Atlanta’s west side. But instead of targeting a Republican, it shifts McBath’s current district into a district tailored for McCormick, stretching from Atlanta’s northern suburbs into its heavily Republican northern mountains.

It’s the second time in two years that Republicans have targeted McBath, a gun control activist. McBath, who is Black, initially won election in a majority-white district in Atlanta’s northern suburbs. Georgia Republicans in 2021 took that district, once represented by Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich, and drew it into much more Republican territory. At the same time, they made another district more Democratic. McBath jumped into that district and beat Democratic incumbent Carolyn Bordeaux in a 2022 primary.

Jones could provide answers to whether he will accept Republican plans in short order. On Wednesday, saying “time is of the essence in this matter,” he set a Dec. 20 hearing to consider the legislative maps. If Jones rejects any or all of them, he is likely to appoint a special master to draw maps on behalf of the court.

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New GOP-favored Georgia congressional map nears passage as the end looms for redistricting session