Georgia lawmakers violated federal voting rights law by moving black voters out and white voters in to two state House districts in 2015, according to a lawsuit filed Monday that calls the mid-decade redistricting an effort to protect white Republican incumbents. The Washington, D.C.-based Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under the Law filed the federal lawsuit against the state of Georgia on behalf of the state chapter of the NAACP and five residents of the affected districts. Secretary of State Brian Kemp, the state’s top elections official, also is named in the suit. “Lawmakers firmly placed their thumb on the scale by redrawing district boundaries in ways that would preserve their incumbency and freeze the status quo in place,” said Kristen Clarke, executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee. “They seek to disregard the demographic changes occurring across Georgia by putting pen to paper mid-decade.”
The suit filed in Atlanta asks that a three-judge panel review the redistricting changes and consider ordering lawmakers to re-draw the two targeted districts. Lawyers for the NAACP and residents also ask that no elections be held using the districts as they were drawn in 2015. State legislative elections are held every two years; the next contests would be in 2018.
Representatives for Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr and Kemp weren’t immediately available to comment on the lawsuit.
Georgia’s Constitution gives state lawmakers the authority to draw House and Senate districts “as necessary” after the U.S. Census is completed every 10 years, but courts have determined that changes between censuses also are permitted.