A federal judge on Thursday approved Georgia’s latest congressional map, which creates a new majority-Black district and changes the one held by Democratic Rep. Lucy McBath. McBath announced after the ruling she will run in the new district.
Judge Steve C. Jones of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, in an order, found that the Georgia legislature complied this month with a court order to redraw the lines to comply with the Voting Rights Act.
But Jones left open the possibility of a separate challenge related to McBath’s district.
The newest map redrew the 6th District as a majority-Black district in western metro Atlanta, which “falls squarely” in the region of the state where the court found Black voter dilution in the previous map, Jones wrote.
Jones rejected an argument that the latest map violates the VRA because changes to Bath’s current 7th District eliminated a “minority opportunity district.”
The 7th District in 2022 was a “coalition” district, which had a minority of white voters and a majority drawing from Black, Asian and Hispanic or Latino voters. McBath won the seat in 2022 with 61 percent of the vote.
The new map includes more white voters in the 7th District and makes it more Republican, which state Democrats and challengers to the map argued violates the VRA.
But Jones ruled that move did not violate his order to maintain minority opportunity districts, because the challenge to the previous map had been about Black voters only.
“This Court has made no finding that Black voters in Georgia politically join with another minority group or groups and that white voters vote as a bloc to defeat the candidate of choice of that minority coalition,” Jones wrote.
For similar reasons, Jones declined to decide on a contention from challengers that the changes to the 7th District independently violated the VRA.
That is a “whole new basis” for a VRA violation that involves “a combination of three minority groups at the remedial stage of their case — which up until now has involved only Black voters,” Jones wrote.
That type of challenge “demands development of significant new evidence and therefore is more appropriately addressed in a separate proceeding,” Jones wrote.
McBath said after the decision she will run in the 6th District next year.
“I refuse to allow an extremist few Republicans decide when my work in Congress is finished,” she said in a statement released by her campaign. “I hope that the judicial system will not allow the state legislature to suppress the will of Georgia voters. However, if the maps passed by the state legislature stand for the 2024 election cycle, I will be running for re-election to Congress in GA-06 because too much is at stake to stand down.”
The current incumbent in the 6th District, Republican Rep. Rich McCormick, announced Thursday night he would run in the redrawn 7th District.
“The district contains 75% of the voters from the old 6th and I look forward to continuing to serve them,” McCormick said in a statement posted on X, the site formerly known as Twitter.
In the initial draft adopted by the state following the 2020 census, Republican legislators changed the configuration of McBath’s old district. So she moved to her current district and defeated former Democratic Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux in the 2022 primary.
Candidates running in Georgia’s May 21 primary have until March to file to run. One seat is open, following the announcement in December that GOP Rep. Drew Ferguson will not seek reelection in the 4th District.
The state’s delegation is currently has a 9-5 Republican majority. If McBath holds onto the new 6th District and McCormick wins the 7th, the spit would remain unchanged.