Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Morning Digest: Nervous Georgia GOP re-gerrymanders state House to protect vulnerable Republicans (daily Kos Elections) · Tuesday, March 07, 2017, 8:33 am

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? GA Redistricting, GA State House: Late on Friday and without warning, Georgia's Republican-dominated state House rammed through a bill that would re-gerrymander their districts to protect their lopsided majority. Donald Trump won Georgia by just 50-45, but Republicans captured nearly two-thirds of the state House seats in 2016 thanks to their ultra-partisan gerrymander. Apparently even that 118-to-62 majority isn't safe enough for Republicans. Redistricting normally only takes place immediately after the census, and redrawing the lines in the middle of the decade simply because they were at risk of losing seats is nothing short of an attempt to nullify elections.

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If the similarly GOP-dominated state Senate and Republican Gov. Nathan Deal agree to these changes, Georgia would redraw the lines for eight Republican-held seats and one Democratic district. These changes would reduce the proportion of voters of color in certain districts where these Democratic-leaning voter demographics had threatened to oust Republican incumbents. This new map could even lead to Republicans regaining a veto-proof majority, preventing Democrats from blocking gerrymanders in the 2020s even if Team Blue wins the critical 2018 election to succeed term-limited Gov. Deal.

What's more, seven of the nine districts Republicans are trying to fiddle with are in the northern Atlanta suburbs, and two of them are located entirely within the 6th Congressional District, as shown at the top of this post. That's where the upcoming special election to replace Trump's new health secretary, Tom Price, is about to take place. While this effort doesn't directly affect the state's congressional lines, if Republicans are futzing with legislative district borders in this part of the state, it's a sign they're worried about the race for the U.S. House too. Stephen Wolf has more here.

Georgia Republicans are no strangers to just this sort of attack on democracy. After they won their first unified control over state government since Reconstruction in 2004, the party swiftly passed a mid-decade gerrymander of the congressional map that almost led to them gaining seats in 2006 even as Democrats picked up scores of seats in other states in that year's anti-GOP wave election. Republicans similarly replaced the court-drawn state Senate map with their own gerrymander to protect their newfound majority in that same election.

If these changes become law, expect to see Democrats and civil rights groups launch a barrage of lawsuits challenging these plans as illegal racial or partisan gerrymanders in violations of the Voting Rights Act or the Constitution's Equal Protections Clause. Given the recent string of court victories against racial gerrymandering and the possibility that the Supreme Court could soon impose limits on partisan gerrymandering, Georgia could soon find itself embroiled in one of the country's biggest redistricting fights.

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