The high-profile new group that aims to give Democrats more control of the redistricting process has filed a federal lawsuit claiming Georgia discriminated against black voters when it redrew two state House districts in 2015.
It’s the first major public initiative of the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, which was created this year by former attorney general Eric Holder (pictured), and is backed by President Barack Obama.
The lawsuit, filed Tuesday on behalf of a group of residents of the metro Atlanta area, alleges that GOP lawmakers moved black voters out of the two districts, in an effort to shore up two Republican incumbents. Those incumbents, it says, had “become increasingly vulnerable to challenge by African-American Democratic candidates.”
One analysis found that one of the districts, held by Rep. Joyce Chandler, was won by Obama over Mitt Romney in 2012 by 50.8 percent to 48.8 percent. But under the 2015 changes, the district would have been won by Romney by 52.8 percent to 46.3 percent — an 8.5 percentage point shift.
Those two districts were among 17 whose boundaries were changed in 2015 as part of an unusual mid-decade redistricting. In recent years, demographic and other changes in the Atlanta area have increasingly threatened Georgia Republicans’ longstanding statewide majorities.
Lawmakers have said there was no racial motivation behind the redistricting.
Earlier this year, a civil rights group filed a similar suit against the Georgia plan over the same two districts. But the intervention of Holder’s group underlines how Democrats increasingly see Georgia as a place where the party can make gains.
In recent years, states including Texas and North Carolina have been found to have conducted illegal racial gerrymanders, in violation of the Voting Rights Act. But the process of creating new maps has dragged on.
In addition to filing legal challenges, Holder’s group is expected to target key state houses in the 2020 elections, in order to give Democrats control of the 2021 redistricting process in as many states as possible.