Gerrymandering, Or Georgiamandering?

A graphic of a see-saw with two people on one side and one on the other

By John A. Tures, Professor of Political Science, LaGrange College

US District Court Judge Steve Jones wrote that the district maps, drawing by GOP politicians after the last census, violate the U.S. Voting Rights Act by undermining the voting power of Black voters, according to NPR. Though the Appeals Court and possibly the Supreme Court may weigh in, there is a good chance that such a ruling may stand, leading to a political shakeup that could affect Cobb County’s voting power.

A few years ago, at a meeting of the Alabama Political Science Association, we had a presentation by a voting expert on gerrymandering. Many of the cases involved GOP gerrymandering.

“I have a question,” I began. “There’s a state that hasn’t had a single Democratic representative since 1996, even though the state has elected a Democrat to the U.S. Senate in 2010, as well as Democratic Governors in 1990, 1994, 1998, 2002, 2014 and 2018.”

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“Well that sound like a case of gerrymandering,” the expert replied.

“Oh, my bad,” I smiled. “I meant the state hasn’t had a single Republican representative since 1996, even though the state elected a Republican to the U.S. Senate in 2010, as well as Republican Governors in six elections from 1990 to the present. It’s Massachusetts,” I explained. I’m so mean.

Gerrymandering is, believe it or not, legal since the Massachusetts politician, for whom it is named for, carved up the state in the era of the Founding Fathers. Well, political gerrymandering is okay by the courts. But when it comes to racial gerrymandering, courts have felt very differently about it since the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

The problem began after the 2020 Census, according to the AP. Democrats led by Lucy McBath and Carolyn Bourdeaux had just won the sixth and seventh Congressional Districts respectively to narrow the GOP advantage to an 8-6 lead in representatives. Republicans responded by redoing those districts to make one very blue, and one very red, instead of keeping both purple, giving their party a 9-5 advantage. And according to Democrats, this was accomplished at the expense of black voters. And those districts do affect Cobb County.

Even though Democrats have two Senators statewide, they face a 33-23 deficit in the State Senate, and a 102-78 disadvantage in the House in the Georgia General Assembly.

Republicans claim that black voters aren’t discriminated against, citing Senator Raphael Warnock’s election. It is worth noting that Warnock’s opponent was Herschel Walker, and that Warnock’s election serves as more evidence at the disparity in statewide support versus how the districts are drawn.

Democrats have reason to feel optimistic. Already, the Supreme Court has stepped in to rule against the state of Alabama for their congressional district map, and ruled against the state for not following the court guidelines in their redraw.

It’s not as though the court will enable Democrats to win a majority of Georgia districts, but the party could take at least one more congressional district, as they did when they picked up the 6th and 7th. What would help the party even more is a change in the state legislative seats from new maps. Yet it is clear that should the Supreme Court agree with the District Court, Cobb County and the nearby districts could be in for a change in district lines perhaps later this year.

John A. Tures is a professor of political science at LaGrange College in LaGrange, Georgia. His views are his own, and do not speak for LaGrange College faculty, students, staff or administration. He can be reached at jtures@lagrange.edu. His Twitter account is JohnTures2.

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