On Heels of Gerrymandering Battle in Pennsylvania, Latest Federal Suit Focuses on Extreme Racial Gerrymandering of Georgia State House Plan
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law filed a Motion for a Preliminary Injunction in its lawsuit against the Georgia Secretary of State that seeks to remedy an unlawful racial gerrymander.
The lawsuit concerns Atlanta metro area Georgia House of Representatives Districts that were redrawn in 2015 for the sole purpose of helping white incumbents get reelected. The Motion filed late Tuesday powerfully demonstrates how race was used as a proxy to further partisan political interests in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment. The Motion seeks an expedited hearing, allowing the federal court enough time to provide for a remedy before the 2018 elections.
“Georgia’s mid-decade redistricting is an egregious example of the kind of racial gerrymandering that has no place in our democracy today,” said Kristen Clarke, President and Executive Director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. “In swing districts where margins of victory were close, Georgia lawmakers reopened legislative maps for the sole purpose of locking in favored non-minority incumbents. Georgia is a place that provides a textbook example of the kind of the unlawful racial gerrymandering that infects too many states today. Our action seeks to fight back against the unlawful actions of Georgia legislators who have put their thumb on the scale of democracy at the expense of minority voters.”
“The Georgia NAACP will not abide by the 2018 election being conducted under racially gerrymandered district boundary lines,” said Phyllis Blake, Georgia NAACP President. “The right to vote rings hollow if elections are held in districts tailor-made to ensure that incumbents are reelected.”
“It is past time for Georgia to end the practice of gerrymandering on the basis of race to serve partisan interests,” said Bill Custer, Partner, Bryan Cave, LLP. “We are better than that, and voters should not have to suffer the effects in the 2018 election cycle.”
“A citizen’s right to have his or her vote be meaningful should not and cannot be dependent on the color of their skin,” said Gregory Phillips, Partner, Munger Tolles & Olson, LLP. “Georgia’s use of race as a means to achieve partisan advantage is unlawful and unacceptable and promotes the types of racial divisions that harm our country. Racial gerrymandering must end.”
In 2015, the Republican-led Georgia General Assembly took the rare step of amending the boundaries of Georgia House Districts 105 and 111 mid-decade. The redistricting did not comply with constitutional requirements like the longstanding “one person, one vote” principle or statutory requirements such as the Voting Rights Act to protect the rights of minority voters. Nor did the General Assembly pass the new map to further traditional redistricting principles such as compactness or avoiding splitting counties, municipalities, and precincts. Rather, the sole reason for re-redistricting House Districts 105 and 111 was to protect the political interests of white Republican incumbents.
The General Assembly’s perceived need to protect white Republican incumbents was motivated by the changing demographics in both House Districts 105 and 111. The General Assembly used racial data as a proxy for political affiliation in order to identify the percentage of African-American voters it needed to move out of Districts 105 and 111 to maintain its partisan advantage.
The Motion demonstrates that the General Assembly’s re-redistricting in 2015 was motivated and accomplished by using race as a proxy for partisan affiliation. In the months leading up to the 2015 re-redistricting, Dan O’Connor, a staff member installed in the redistricting office by the Speaker of the House and the resident expert in assessing political performance of districts, repeatedly communicated with Legislators and others, emphasizing that redistricting was necessary due to changing racial demographics. For example, in August 2014, O’Connor emailed Chuck Efstration, who represented House District 104, explaining the explosive growth in black voter registration in Gwinnett County and that his district was “an obvious target” for “tweaking” District 105 by swapping out Republicans for Democrats.
Plaintiffs in the suit include Georgia State Conference of the NAACP and several individuals who live in the contested Districts. Working with the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law as pro bono counsel are the law firms of Munger, Tolles & Olson LLP and Bryan Cave. The suit has been filed in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, Atlanta Division.
To read a copy of the Preliminary Injunction filed Tuesday, click here.