Groups file for injunction against ‘gerrymandered’ school board maps

Side-by-side maps of the two alternative school board maps, the benchmark and the one that was enacted

by Rebecca Gaunt

A coalition of voters and civil rights groups filed a motion for injunction Tuesday to prevent the use of an electoral map in the 2024 election that they say discriminates against voters of color.

They are requesting the judge rule by December to allow enough time for an interim map to be adopted and implemented.

Read Wednesday’s motion in full here.

The original lawsuit was filed in June 2022. 

The plaintiffs allege that Black and Latino voters were packed into Districts 2, 3, and 6. The complaint also alleges that the changes in District 7 were intended to preserve the white majority.

In the 2020 election, District 7 Republican board member Brad Wheeler had a narrow victory over Democratic challenger Lindsay Terrebonne.

According to the motion, the reapportionment could have been accomplished by moving fewer than 9,000 people, but the map-drawer moved 250,000 people into new districts. He also failed to complete the functional analysis required to properly comply with the Voting Rights Acts. 

“Had they undertaken such analyses, they would have easily found that voters of color in those districts had been electing their candidates of choice, and there was thus no reason under the VRA to pack those districts with more voters of color,” it states.

The motion further alleges that state Rep. Ginny Ehrhart (R-West Cobb) diverted from the standard legislative process to ensure the map’s passage. Rather than bring the legislation forward as a local bill, she filed it as a general bill, sidestepping the local delegation.

Last week, the Cobb Board of Elections, the only remaining defendant, voted along party lines to settle the lawsuit. 

According to the terms, the board will not take any steps to oppose the plaintiffs.

In response, the law firm Freeman Mathis & Gary, which is representing the school district, fired off a statement that was shared district-wide by CCSD, accusing the elections board of colluding with “leftist activists.” Chair Tori Silas denied the charge and has maintained the elections board is not the appropriate body to defend the map.

“To justify what they have done, the Elections Board says it is cheaper to give up than to defend the map against the array of liberal activist groups affiliated with Stacy Abrams [sic] and the Democratic Party,” the firm wrote.

Read Freeman Mathis & Gary’ statement in full here.

The decision by the plaintiffs to only name the Cobb Board of Elections and the elections director in the lawsuit has caused some confusion for the public. In an FAQ it posted, the Southern Poverty Law Center said that although the lawsuit alleges that key legislators and the school board manipulated the map based on race, “[the elections board and director] have been named as defendants because they are responsible for implementing electoral maps in Cobb County and the lawsuit seeks to block implementation of the School Board map.”

The Cobb County School Board voluntarily intervened in the lawsuit to defend the maps in January. In March the school district filed a motion asking to be removed citing, “cause of action, if any, lies solely and exclusively with the General Assembly.”

 In July, the judge cleared the district of liability in the case and released it as a defendant.

Last week’s missive from CCSD’s attorneys at Freeman Mathis & Gary vowed it would “continue all legal efforts to redress this wrong.”

The school board is the last elected body in Cobb to maintain a Republican majority, marking a drastic change in demographics over the last two decades.

Rebecca Gaunt earned a degree in journalism from the University of Georgia and a master’s degree in education from Oglethorpe University. After teaching elementary school for several years, she returned to writing. She lives in Marietta with her husband, son, two cats, and a dog. In her spare time, she loves to read, binge Netflix and travel.