A federal judge ordered the Georgia legislature on Oct. 26 to create a total of eight new black-majority electoral districts for 2024 congressional and state elections by Dec. 8.
The courts are now dealing with a torrent of litigation spurred by the Supreme Court’s 5–4 decision in June in Allen v. Milligan. In that case, the conservative-dominated court unexpectedly stood behind its interpretation of the federal Voting Rights Act (VRA), rejecting Alabama’s request to leave its legislature-approved electoral map in place.
A court in Florida recently held that the Republican-controlled state legislature there illegally diluted the voting power of black residents. Other legal challenges to congressional districts are pending in Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, New Mexico, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Utah.
In a mammoth 516-page order (pdf) in a case known as Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity v. Raffensperger, Judge Steve C. Jones of the Northern District of Georgia found that the Georgia legislature drew up new districts in a racially discriminatory manner in violation of the VRA.
Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity is a nonprofit organization for black Americans that describes itself as “strengthening the brotherhood and standing for social justice.” Brad Raffensperger is Georgia’s Republican secretary of state.
After conducting what he called “a thorough and sifting review of the evidence in this case,” Judge Jones directed the legislature to create one new black-majority congressional district, along with two new black-majority districts in the Georgia Senate and five new black-majority districts in the Georgia House of Representatives.
The state’s delegation to the U.S. House of Representatives currently consists of nine Republicans and five Democrats. Both of the state’s U.S. senators are Democrats.
Republicans control both chambers of the Georgia General Assembly.
The state Senate has 33 Republicans and 23 Democrats. The state House has 102 Republicans and 78 Democrats.
Judge Jones said if the legislature fails to act, he would carry out the map-drawing process himself.
Hours after the order, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, a Republican, called for a special legislative session to begin on Nov. 29 to make new maps for the elections.
The ruling is likely to be appealed, in which case the federal appeals court may put the order on hold. If that happens, the districts as currently drawn may still be used in next year’s elections.
The ruling came after an eight-day trial in September in which the plaintiff argued that black voters needed federal assistance to receive fair treatment. The state argued court intervention was not justified.
“Georgia has made great strides since 1965 toward equality in voting,” Judge Jones wrote in the order.
“However, the evidence before this court shows that Georgia has not reached the point where the political process has equal openness and equal opportunity for everyone.”
The electoral districts now in place do not reflect the fact that the growth of the state’s non-white population has outpaced the growth rate of the white population, he wrote.
Apparently anticipating criticism of his decision, Judge Jones wrote that his ruling “in no way states or implies that the General Assembly or Georgia Republicans are racist.”
The VRA does not compel him to find that the maps under challenge were created to discriminate against black voters or that the legislature is racist, he wrote.
“Nothing in this order should be construed to indicate otherwise,” he added.
In September, Judge Jones, who was appointed in 2011 by President Barack Obama, ruled against former Trump White House chief of staff Mark Meadows in refusing to remove state-level election interference charges from state court to federal court.
Mr. Meadows and several other co-defendants, including former President Donald Trump, are facing prosecution in state court in Fulton County, Georgia, by District Attorney Fani Willis, a Democrat.
Mr. Meadows and all the defendants in the case are accused of violating the Georgia RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations) Act from Nov. 4, 2020, which is the day after the presidential election, to Sept. 15, 2022, for their allegedly illegal efforts to challenge the presidential election results in Georgia, a state that President Joe Biden ultimately won.
Mr. Meadows is arguing his prosecution should proceed in federal court because he is immune to state prosecution because whatever he did to aid President Trump’s efforts to contest the 2020 presidential election in Georgia, it was done in his official capacity as a federal officer, and he had federal defenses available to him.
His appeal of the denial decision by Judge Jones is currently pending before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit.
The Epoch Times reached out for comment to Gov. Kemp and to Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr, a Republican, but had not received a reply from either of them at the time of publication.
The Epoch Times also sought comment from one of the fraternity’s attorneys, Rahul Garabadu of the ACLU Foundation of Georgia.
A reply had not been received as of press time, but Mr. Garabadu praised the new court ruling in a statement to the Associated Press.
“In 2021, the General Assembly ignored Georgia’s diversification over the last decade and enacted a state legislative map that demonstrably diluted the voting strength of black voters,” he said.
“Today’s decision charts a path to correct that grave injustice before the 2024 election cycle.”
From The Epoch Times