ATLANTA — (TodayNews) — A judge has refused to dismiss claims that Georgia and Congressional districts unlawfully discriminate against black voters.
U.S. District Judge Steve Jones ruled on Monday that he can only decide disputes over the facts of the case and the credibility of witness testimony after a full trial, which he scheduled for September.
“Furthermore, given the seriousness and importance of the right to an equal vote for all American citizens, the Court will take a careful and thorough review of the evidence that the parties present in this case at trial,” Jones wrote.
The rulings apply to three cases: one contesting the lines of 14 congressional districts in Georgia and two contesting the lines of 56 state Senate and 180 districts of the State House of Representatives. All three lawsuits allege that the cards violate federal voting rights law by weakening the growing electoral power of black voters.
The plaintiffs want Jones to order another congressional district where black voters can elect their chosen candidate. This could give the Democrats another constituency. Republicans own nine counties and Democrats own five after the Republicans in the legislature redrawn the cards to improve their lead from an 8-6 majority in 2020.
Cases were suspended while Alabama challenged the Voting Rights Act. The U.S. Supreme Court last month upheld its interpretation of the law, which says that district boundaries cannot lead to discriminatory consequences, rejecting Alabama’s attempt to change the rules. This cleared the way for things to move forward in Georgia.
Jones has already said that it’s likely that parts of Georgia’s redistricting plans violate federal law. However, last year he authorized the use of new maps of Congress and state legislatures for the 2022 elections because finding the changes closer to the election would be too damaging.
Applicants argue that in state legislative affairs, the map could include three additional black-majority state Senate districts and five additional black-majority House districts. These changes, if approved, are unlikely to cost Republicans party control of any legislative chamber.
Jones has scheduled a joint trial on all three lawsuits to begin September 5, meaning districts could be reshuffled before the 2024 congressional and state legislature elections.
The judge said that one key argument put forward by the state in defense of the cards—that divisions between black and white voters are caused by party affiliation, not race—does not apply at this stage of the case, saying that only the consequences of those divisions matter now. . He also rejected the plaintiffs’ attempts to obtain a judgment without a trial, saying he could not make a decision “without establishing the facts, weighing the evidence and assessing the reliability of the experts.”
At least two more cases have been filed against the new maps of Georgia.
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