The Cobb County Board of Education in Georgia and state legislators used racial demographic information to “pack” communities of color — particularly Black and Latinx voters — into three of seven school board voting districts to diminish their political power and preserve a white majority on the board.
To protect the voting rights of Cobb County residents, the Southern Poverty Law Center and its co-counsel filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of
New Georgia Project Action Fund, The League of Women Voters of Marietta-Cobb, the Georgia Coalition for the People’s Agenda, the Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials and individual Cobb County parents. The suit claims the racial gerrymandering of the district violates the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
Cobb County is the third most populous county in Georgia with just over 766,000 people and is one of the most rapidly diversifying counties in the state. In 2010, white people comprised 56% of the county’s population. But in 2020, their proportion of the population had dropped to 48%. Accompanying the demographic shift is a clear growth in the political strength of voters of color.
In Georgia, county-level redistricting maps must be approved by the General Assembly through the legislative process. For these school board maps, state legislators bypassed local legislation rules, which would have required prior negotiation and approval by the legislative members representing Cobb, and instead moved the proposed school board map through the general legislation process. This allowed legislators to bring the bills before committees with white, conservative majorities and onto the floor of both chambers, controlled by the conservative majority.
The process resulted in a racially gerrymandered map that preserved four majority-white districts, leaving large majorities of voters of color in the remaining three districts, thereby limiting their ability to influence school board elections in other districts.
The complaint alleges that the maps violate the 14th Amendment, which guarantees equal protection under the law, by using race to segregate and cabin Black and Latinx voters into the three south Cobb districts, despite the trending and rapid growth of these communities.
On Oct. 9, 2023, the Cobb County Board of Elections and Registration voted to move forward with a “Stipulated Settlement Agreement” with the plaintiffs. This FAQ explains the steps in this litigation.