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Democratic Group Sues Over Georgia Redistricting

National Redistricting Foundation is suing Secretary of State Brian Kemp on behalf of four Georgia voters. The lawsuit claims redistricting has diluted black voting strength. The Georgia Secretary of State's office says the Department of Justice approved the 2011 congressional maps and calls the complaint baseless.
The National Redistricting Foundation is suing Secretary of State Brian Kemp on behalf of four Georgia voters. The lawsuit claims redistricting has diluted black voting strength. The Georgia Secretary of State's office says the Department of Justice approved the 2011 congressional maps and calls the complaint baseless.
Credit John Amis / Associated Press file
Audio version of this story here.

A group of voters is suing the Georgia secretary of state over how congressional district lines were drawn after the last census. The suit says the redistricting diluted black voting strength.

Georgia has seen a significant growth in its minority population since the early 2000s. That meant that after the 2010 census, new congressional district lines were drawn.

But the way it happened didn’t give minority communities enough of a chance to elect candidates they support, according to the National Redistricting Foundation.

“We believe in Georgia that there should be one additional majority minority seat,” said Marina Jenkins, the foundation’s litigation director.

The NRF is suing Secretary of State Brian Kemp on behalf of four Georgia voters. Its focus is on Congressional District 12, which the foundation argues should have included Savannah, with its majority black population. Instead, the district gained voters from whiter, nearby counties.

Charles Bullock, a political science professor at the University of Georgia, says convincing a court that not enough of Georgia’s 14 districts are majority minority may be a challenge.

“Georgia’s black population is right around 30 percent, and I suspect one of the defenses the state would offer would be that four out of 14 comes closer to that than five out of 14,” said Bullock.

He says the court may decide five out of 14 might mean an overrepresentation of minority voters.

“In the course of the litigation, when the court gets to that question, it would be a bit of a battle of the experts,” Jenkins said.

Bullock also points out the lawsuit is coming a bit late.

“Two years from now, we’ll have taken a new census, and beginning in 2021, the state’s going to have to redraw its plans anyway,” he said.

So Bullock says the political divide is key here.

“The law firm that’s behind this has been filing cases around the country and filing on behalf of Democrats. So if indeed this case were to succeed, there’d be a good chance potentially that there’d be one fewer Republican and one more Democrat.”

The NRF said the suits were filed now in hopes they might have an impact on the 2020 congressional elections. The group is led by former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder.

The Georgia Secretary of State’s office says the Department of Justice, under Holder, approved the 2011 congressional maps and calls the complaint baseless.