Georgia Senate Republicans are proposing a new map that would create two new Black-majority districts. In an attempt to rectify a plan that a court determined improperly dilutes Black votes, Georgia Senate Republicans are proposing a new design that would establish two Black-majority voting districts while likely retaining Republicans’ 33-23 advantage in the General Assembly’s upper house.
The move comes after a court ruled that the existing voting district layout improperly dilutes Black votes.
Georgia Senate Republicans are proposing a new map that would create two new Black-majority districts. The new maps, which were revealed on Monday, would boost the number of Black-majority districts by removing two white-majority districts presently controlled by Democrats.
If the new plan is approved, Atlanta state senators Jason Esteves and Elena Parent would be forced to live in Black-majority districts.
A special session to redraw state legislative and congressional districts is set to begin on Wednesday after U.S. District Judge Steve Jones ordered Georgia to draw Black majorities in one additional congressional district, two additional state Senate districts, and five additional state House districts in October.
It’s unknown if Jones would accept the map if it passed. He declared two more Black Senate districts in the southern section of Atlanta unlawful under Section 2 of the federal Voting Rights Act.
Two of those districts were unaffected by Monday’s Republican proposal: one in Clayton and Fayette counties, represented by Democrat Valencia Seay of Riverdale, and another in Fayette, Spalding, Pike, and Lamar counties, represented by Republican Marty Harbin of Tyrone.
Other districts ruled unconstitutional witnessed modifications that had minimal impact on their racial or political balance. Republicans, on the other hand, suggest redrawing a handful of Democratic-held districts in Fulton and Cobb counties that the court did not call out.
Overall, it seems that no existing senators would be drawn into the same district under the scheme. This is significant because, under Georgia law, state lawmakers must have resided in their districts for a year before being elected. Because the election in 2024 is less than a year away, it is too late for anybody to migrate to another district to run.
Parents and Esteves might face Democratic primary challenges in their very different districts. Parent is the Senate’s second-highest-ranking Democrat, while Esteves is the state Democratic Party’s treasurer.
The parent refused to comment Monday, saying she would respond when Democrats unveiled their plan on Tuesday. That proposal is unlikely to pass the Republican-majority legislature, but it may become part of a legal debate over whether legislators’ suggested solution fits the conditions of Jones’ decision.
Ken Lawler, head of Fair Districts GA, which works to remove political gerrymandering, said the districts accomplished Jones’ aim of establishing more Black majority districts.
“They get a pass on compliance,” Lawler added.
However, he said that Republicans should not modify other districts to maintain their existing majority, citing prior mid-decade adjustments made by Georgia Republicans in recent decades to pad their power.
Although neither House nor congressional plans were issued Monday, the House Committee on Reapportionment and Redistricting announced a hearing on a new House plan on Wednesday.
A new Black-majority congressional district, paired with similar verdicts in other Southern states, might help Democrats recapture the U.S. House in 2024. New legislative districts in Georgia have the potential to reduce Republican dominance.
It’s uncertain if the GOP can constitutionally block Democrats from capturing a congressional seat, as they’re attempting to do in the state Senate. Jones said in his decision that Georgia cannot solve its issues “by eliminating minority opportunity districts elsewhere.”
The state has promised to fight Jones’ decision. If the state wins an appeal, Georgia may have new districts in 2024 and return to existing borders in 2026.
Republicans own nine of Georgia’s 14 congressional seats and 102 of the 180 state House seats.