State legislatures redraw voting lines

Lawsuits filed against new maps for Major Atlanta area counties. Photo by Alexander Lukatskiy on

In December, Governor Brian Kemp approved Georgia redistricting that redrew district lines and introduced new districting maps for Gwinnett, Athens-Clarke and Cobb County. The ink from Kemp’s signature was not yet dry before lawsuits challenged the new districts. 

To date, five different parties have filed lawsuits, all similarly stating the new maps were gerrymandered to undermine the political power of minority groups and to dilute the power of Black voters.

States redistrict to account for population growth. Every ten years, legislators draw new state, legislative and district boundaries to ensure an even number of constituents in each area. 

This year many eyes are watching closely to determine if the new district lines are legal and fair for voters. 

In the ten years since the last redistricting, over a million new residents have moved to Georgia, and more than half of all Georgians live in metro Atlanta. Redistricting is legal and necessary to keep representation evenly distributed.

Politicians define gerrymandering as the practice of drawing voting districts to create an unfair advantage for those moving the lines. Gerrymandering can be done with scientific precision to include and exclude whichever voters they want in one district and not in others. 

Racial gerrymandering was made illegal with the Voting Rights Act of 1965. It is when politicians do it to create a disadvantage for minorities. However, partisan gerrymandering can gain a political advantage over an opposing party. 

One of the tactics used to gerrymander is what politicians call ‘packing and cracking.’ Packing means that one party will cram as many opposition voters as possible into a few districts to win the minor majority. Cracking spreads opposition voters out over several districts to dilute their votes, so their votes do not matter.

Redistricting is typically carried out by local officials who better understand what goes on in their area. The state legislature attempts to circumvent this norm by imposing their voting districts.

While state legislatures say they are redrawing these districts for the sake of their constituents, many believe it is in response to the presidential election of 2020. For the first time in 30 years, Georgia voted for a Democrat, and these three counties played a significant role in that.

During the 2020 presidential election, America watched as President Donald Trump probed Georgia’s Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, who oversaw the election process, to find more votes in his favor. 

Ultimately, Georgia’s decision stood, and Joe Biden became the 46th president of the United States and the first Democrat to win Georgia since Bill Clinton in 1992. 

In January 2021, Democrats Jon Ossoff and Rev. Raphael Warnock won Georgia’s 2 Senate seats, giving Democrats a Senate majority. These sudden changes that turned Georgia from a solid red state to a purple state became a spark for the contentious nature of the most recent redistricting.

While many feel Democrats are losing representation, some Republican opinions differ.

“This is a reflection of the growth in minority populations in the state of Georgia, our state’s increased diversity and compliance with the Voting Rights Act,” Republican state rep Chuck Efstration said to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “This is a good map.”

Some Democrats say this could harm minority citizens in a way they will not recover for decades. Other lawmakers worry this will set a precedent for other counties to follow.

“What we are looking at is this idea that Republicans can use their power at the state legislature to circumvent local control,” said Atlanta state Rep. Bee Nguyen, a Democrat who is also a candidate for secretary of state. “It is setting a new precedent that is dangerous in nature.”

Advantage has previously been given to the Republican party because Democrats live so closely together in Atlanta, a small liberal pocket in an otherwise majority Republican state. 

Gwinnett, Athens-Clarke and Cobb all have a majority-minority population, prompting watchdogs to allege that politicians have made these moves to install whites or conservatives in county seats they otherwise could not win. 

Civil rights activists argue that these proposed changes intentionally remove the voice given to disadvantaged minorities in the previous election. Republican state lawmakers submitted maps to replace the approved ones by county commissioners and local legislative delegation in all three counties. 

These new maps could require several sitting Democratic commissioners to move to run for re-election.

Since Kemp waited until the last possible day to sign the new laws, those who filed the lawsuits will face a hurdle of enough time for the suits to settle. 

This fact means it is very likely that politicians will use these new proposed maps for the upcoming midterm elections.