In 2015, the Georgia General Assembly reworked seventeen House districts’ boundaries through H.B. 566. A lawsuit filed Monday alleges that the changes in Districts 105 and 111 violate the Voting Rights Act because lawmakers diluted black voting strength with the changes in order to protect incumbents. The suit asks a three-judge panel to review the changes and redraw the two districts.
According to the Chattanooga Times Free Press:
The lawsuit says the changes increased the percentage of white voters in Chandler’s district to about 53 percent in 2016 elections, compared to 48 percent. Black voters went from 32 percent to 30 percent. The suit says the changes increased the percentage of white voters in Strickland’s district to 58 percent in 2016 elections, compared to 56 percent. Black voters went from 33 percent to 31 percent.
Both Republicans were re-elected to their seats last year over black Democrats.
Prior to 2013, changes to districts would have had to go through a pre-approval process, but the Supreme Court invalidated that part of the Voting Rights Act with its ruling in Shelby County v. Holder.
In the Atlanta Daily World, Kristen Clarke, president and executive director for the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law — the group that filed the lawsuit on behalf of the Georgia NAACP and five residents of the two districts — stated, “This kind of racial gerrymandering is not only unlawful, but illustrative of the ugly racial discrimination that infects the political process in Georgia today.”
Secretary of State Brian Kemp and Attorney General Chris Carr did not respond to requests from either outlet for comment.
Back in September, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution looked specifically at the changes to District 105. According to Rep. Randy Nix, who sponsored H.B. 566, incumbents had specifically requested changes, though when asked, Rep. Joyce Chandler, who represents District 105, said she did not recall asking for any boundary changes to her district.
Chandler’s district is still one of the most competitive in the state, even with the changes. In 2016, she won reelection with 50.45% of the vote.