Georgia's New Voter Map Gives GOP Projected Advantage in State, Congressional Races

Georgia lawmakers passed a redistricting plan that would give Republicans a strong advantage in nine of the state's 14 districts.

The last step is for Governor Brian Kemp to sign Senate Bill 2EX into law. The Associated Press reported that the 96-68 state House vote fell largely along party lines.

The redistricting follows President Joe Biden's narrow win in the state during the 2020 presidential election and the state's election of two Democratic U.S. senators in January.

With the new district lines, Republicans are projected to win 64 percent of 14 congressional seats, 59 percent of 56 state Senate seats and 54 percent of 180 state House seats.

According to the AP report, the plan makes suburban Atlanta's 6th Congressional District more Republican by drawing it more into northern counties. The 6th District is currently represented by Democrat Lucy McBath, who rose to prominence as a gun control activist after her son's fatal shooting, won the district in 2018 after decades of Republican control.

Following the redistricting decision, McBath announced she would instead be running in the 7th District, challenging Democratic incumbent Carolyn Bourdeaux.

"Simply put, I will not let Brian Kemp, the NRA, and the Republican party decide when my work in Congress on behalf of my son is done," McBath said in a statement. "Black women are often expected to stand down and step aside, and those are two things I simply refuse to do."

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Lucy McBath, Georgia, Democrat
Representative Lucy McBath will attempt to change districts after a new redistricting plan gave suburban Atlanta's 6th Congressional District a Republican majority. Above, McBath questions U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland at a House Judiciary Committee hearing at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., on October 21, 2021. Photo by Greg Nash-Pool/Getty Images

"This map makes your intent obvious: to legislatively draw and quarter Congresswoman Lucy McBath and scatter to the four winds all the Black and brown voters that put her in office," said Representative Matthew Wilson, a Brookhaven Democrat. "For this map amounts to race-based sorting, pure and simple, all for political power. You want more seats in Congress and with this map, you'll have them."

House Legislative & Congressional Reapportionment Committee Chair Bonnie Rich denied that McBath's 6th District is protected by federal law.

"It does not mean that a majority white district like the 6th that elects a minority candidate all of the sudden gets a lifelong protection under the Voting Rights Act for that incumbent," Rich said.

Rich, a Republican from Suwanee, defended the map as fair.

"It complies with the law, the Constitution and the Voting Rights act, regardless of what activists and candidates for statewide office say," she said.

Republicans will give ground in the state House and Senate, a recognition that Georgia's 1 million population growth over the past decade has come from nonwhite residents.

"I think Republicans played it conservatively, giving up some seats," said University of Georgia political science professor Charles Bullock. "They gave Democrats probably six seats in the House and one in the Senate immediately."

Kemp has yet to sign any of the plans, the last step needed for them to become law. liberal-leaning groups are threatening lawsuits.

Democratic lawyer Marc Elias tweeted Saturday that if the congressional plan is enacted, "Georgia will be sued." Any lawsuit would be arduous, though, with plaintiffs forced to prove that the districts violate the federal Voting Rights Act by blocking minority voters from electing their chosen candidate.

Democrats have proposed a 7-7 congressional map. On Monday, they again objected to a predominantly Black part of southwestern Cobb County being drawn into the heavily Republican 14th Congressional District, now held by Republican Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene.

Representative Erica Thomas, an Austell Democrat, said her constituents ended up "so clearly where they do not belong."

Georgia's population rose nearly 10 percent, to 10.7 million people over the past decade, but results from the 2020 census show the growth has been uneven. The Atlanta and Savannah areas boomed, while rural areas mostly lost population.

Fair Districts Georgia, a nonpartisan group, has argued that an 8-6 split would most fairly represent Georgia's current political landscape, in which many Democrats are tightly clustered in urban areas. That group and some others are also critical of the Republican congressional map because none of its proposed districts are likely to be competitive among the two major parties.

Democrats and Republicans in legislatures nationwide have been using the redistricting process to try to increase their party's edge in the narrowly divided Congress. Republicans control more of the 50 statehouses, and hope to leverage this advantage to flip the U.S. House to a GOP majority next year.

It's the first time in decades that Georgia hasn't had to seek approval from the U.S. Justice Department for district lines after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down part of the Voting Rights Act.

Georgia Capitol, state legislature
Georgia lawmakers have redrawn district lines, giving state Republicans an advantage in future political races. Above, the Georgia State Capitol on January 6, 2021, in Atlanta. Photo by Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images