Eric Holder-Led Group Challenges Georgia Redistricting, Claims Race-Based Gerrymandering

Eric Holder / Getty
Eric Holder / Getty

A Democratic group led by former Attorney General Eric Holder has accused Georgia Republicans of gerrymandering two state legislative districts in order to minimize African-American voters' impact on elections.

The National Redistricting Foundation says Republicans in Georgia have abused the Voting Rights Act to hide their intentions, the New York Times reported.

The group is expected to file a lawsuit with a Federal District Court in Atlanta, Georgia on Tuesday that claims race was the "predominant factor" in reshaping the 105th and 111th districts in the Atlanta area.

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The districts in question currently have Republican representatives that serve in the Georgia House of Representatives. Republican lawmakers, however, have faced challenges from black Democrats in these two districts, according to the Times.

Both district lines were drawn in 2015 through a redistricting law that the suit claims violates the Voting Rights Act and Fourteenth Amendment. Holder said Georgia’s district map was a "particularly egregious" case of "racial gerrymandering" aimed at choking the political impact of Atlanta and its suburbs.

"[The Atlanta area] is becoming a lot more competitive, and [Republicans], through this mid-cycle redistricting, made the determination that this was something that was threatening to them," Holder said.

In the past, Republicans have defended themselves against similar cases by arguing the redistricting was carried out with partisan motives in mind, rather than racially-charged motives.

Redistricting lawsuits in Georgia, as well as another in Wisconsin, are part of a Democratic strategy to challenge Republican control of the district drawing process for state and federal elections after the GOP had broad election victories in 2010 and gained power in Congress.

Democrats argue that the wide control of redistricting by Republicans has resulted in Democratic candidates having increased difficulty gaining control of legislative bodies in many states.

Holder, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.), Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D., Va.), and other Democratic leaders formed the National Democratic Redistricting Committee to help finance any legal challenges they wish to bring up regarding Republican-drawn maps.

The lawsuit against Georgia will be the first that Holder’s group, an affiliate of the committee, will file on its own. Holder previously joined in litigation brought by allied organizations.

Previous lawsuits filed on similar grounds have had "mixed success," according to the Times. A federal appellate court ruling said a Republican-drawn map in Texas discriminated against minority voters, but the Supreme Court declined to force the state to redraw its districts before the upcoming 2018 elections. The Supreme Court also found in May that North Carolina Republicans engaged in racial gerrymandering, which prompted only a small revision of the state’s political districts.

"I’m obviously disappointed by what the court did [in Texas]," Holder said. "That system will stay in place, potentially though the next cycle, and I think that’s problematic."