ATLANTA – Today, following the introduction of bills to redistrict county government bodies across many of Georgia’s 159 counties, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and Walden Macht & Haran LLP sent letters to each state legislator reminding them of the General Assembly’s legal obligation to comply with the U.S. Constitution and federal law when drawing political maps. The letter also strongly encourages the General Assembly to provide meaningful opportunities for public input.
SPLC's letter can be found HERE
19 bills have been introduced as of today to redraw the political maps for county commissions and county school boards. The Lieutenant Governor has previously directed the General Assembly to create and pass all local political maps by February 18 in a letter he distributed, which provides little opportunity for public input, particularly during a COVID-19 surge.
“We are reminding politicians in the Georgia legislature to comply with the U.S. Constitution and Voting Rights Act in local redistricting. They can do so by creating compact districts that accurately reflect community boundaries and give fair representation to the voters of color who make up the entirety of Georgia’s population increase in the past decade,” said Poy Winichakul, staff attorney for voting rights with the SPLC. “We also call on the General Assembly to resist the request by the lieutenant governor to rush through maps by February 18 which would give inadequate opportunity for public input by voters. Voters’ access to resources and political representation in their county government is too important to ram through in a matter of weeks.”
As the letter from SPLC notes: “It is therefore your obligation under federal law to refrain from “cracking” and “packing” districts—“fragmenting [or cracking] the minority voters among several districts where a bloc-voting majority can routinely outvote them,” or “packing them into one or a small number of districts to minimize their influence in the districts next door.”15 Pursuant to the VRA and the U.S. Constitution, you may not use district lines to water down the voting power of a politically cohesive group of people of color.”
Politicians in the Georgia state legislature have an established history of “cracking” apart communities of color or “packing” together communities in disparate parts of the state to diminish their voice in government. In the most recent special legislative session, Georgia legislative leaders adopted Congressional District maps that “cracked” apart Black communities in the 6th district, “packed” together Black communities into the 13th district, and siphoned Black communities into the 14th district, denying Black votes their fair share of seats in Congress and violating the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Following Governor Brian Kemp's decision to sign the maps into law, the SPLC and other voting rights groups filed Common Cause v. Raffensperger in federal court to seek new political maps that accurately reflect Georgia in 2021.