"Federal law requires an end to vote dilution and a real change for injured voters, not reshuffling the same deck," said one plaintiffs' attorney in the case.
U.S. voting rights defenders on Thursday decried a federal judge's ruling upholding Georgia's GOP-drawn congressional map, which critics argue is racially gerrymandered and, given the state's swing status, could tip the balance of power in Washington in 2024.
U.S. District Judge Steve Jones—an appointee of former Democratic President Barack Obama—handed Republicans a major win in his ruling, which found that Georgia's 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."
The decision means that Georgia Republicans will likely keep their 9-5 edge in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Republican Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp convened a special legislative session earlier this month. State lawmakers redrew the 7th Congressional District, imperiling Democrat Lucy McBath's reelection prospects, while redrawing the 6th Congressional District to make it majority Black to comply with the court's order.
McBath responded to the ruling by announcing she would seek election in the 6th District next year.
"A court just ruled in favor of GOP maps that blatantly target me. But I'm not going anywhere," McBath said on social media. "I refuse to allow an extremist few decide when my work in Congress is complete."
State Rep. Jasmine Clark (D-108) accused the GOP-led Legislature of breaking up one minority-dominant district to create another, which she said violates the Voting Rights Act. Clark added that the new map "blatantly targets" McBath.
While Republicans welcomed Jones' ruling, voting rights advocates condemned the decision—and the new map, claiming it would perpetuate minority voter suppression.
"Federal law requires an end to vote dilution and a real change for injured voters, not reshuffling the same deck," said Ari Savitzky, a senior attorney at the ACLU of Georgia—which represented plaintiffs in the case. "We will continue to hold the General Assembly accountable until Georgia voters get the maps they deserve."
Gerald Griggs, president of the Georgia NAACP, toldReuters that the new map is "racially gerrymandered."
"All of Georgia has now been diluted of our voices," he added. "We respectfully disagree and look forward to further litigation on this issue."
Aunna Dennis, executive director of the progressive advocacy group Common Cause Georgia, said in a statement that "the new maps—drawn unfairly and without transparency—failed to fairly represent Black voters, as ordered by the court."
"Throughout this session, state legislators shuffled our communities to weaken our voices," Dennis added. "Every voter in Georgia deserves to have fair representation in the state Legislature and Congress, and that is why we urge Gov. Kemp to send the Legislature back to the drawing board to design fair maps."
Jones' ruling follows a Wisconsin Supreme Court decision last week that found state Legislature maps rigged by Republican lawmakers unconstitutional. Federal and state courts this year have also struck down gerrymandered maps in Alabama, Florida, and Louisiana.