ATLANTA (CN) – Georgia repealed state laws to gerrymander voting districts to dilute black voting strength, the Georgia Legislative Black Caucus says in Federal Court. And the state is considering another law “that would carve an entire county from Fulton County,” home to Atlanta, for a similar racial purpose, says lead plaintiff Joseph Lowery.
Lowery and his co-plaintiffs sued Gov. Nathan Deal, saying the state’s racial gerrymandering violates the Voting Rights Act and the U.S. Constitution. They say the gerrymandering – which includes creating new white cities – serves no state purpose other than to carve white-dominated voting blocs out of minority-dominated regions.
They complain of “(i) the enactment and implementation of statutes and laws that carved majority majority municipalities from majority minority counties, with the effect of significantly diluting the voting rights and political access of plaintiffs, and (ii) the planned enactment and implementation of certain pending legislation to create the County of Milton [from Fulton County], which would further dilute and abridge the voting rights and political access of plaintiffs, and otherwise cause the plaintiffs harm.”
Minorities, specifically African-Americans, “have become the dominant racial group in Fulton County and DeKalb County” in the past 30 years, according to the complaint. Parts of Atlanta are in DeKalb County.
Fulton County was 45.3 percent white and 44.1 percent black in 2005, with the remaining 10.6 percent other minorities, the complaint states, citing Census figures. DeKalb County is 54.2 percent black and 35.8 percent white.
“However, starting in 2005, the defendant passed laws to establish political enclaves within Fulton County and DeKalb County that were predominantly white, unlike the political jurisdictions from which they were carved,” the complaint states. “These municipal voting districts (‘MVDs’) supplanted the fully functional and racially balanced county governments that, for over 150 years, had provided all local government services for the citizens of Fulton County and DeKalb County.
“These new MVDs were the City of Sandy Springs, created in 2005, the City of Milton, created in 2006, the City of Johns Creek, created in 2006, the City of Chattahoochee Hills, created in 2007, and the City of Dunwoody, created in 2008.”
According to the complaint, the City of Milton is 88.6 percent white and 4.6 percent black; Johns Creek is 89.5 percent white and 4.1 percent black; Chattahoochee Hills is 80.9 percent white and 18 percent black; and “the overwhelming majority, if not all, of the elected officials who now control the [cities], formerly controlled by minorities, are white.”
The plaintiffs add that Georgia “created these MVDs outside of the normal legislative process.”
“First, the defendant repealed a state law requiring that all municipalities directly provide at least three municipal services to maintain or obtain a charter.
“Second, the defendant repealed a state law that required at least 3 miles between any new city and any existing city.
“Lastly, although the charters for each of the MVDs clearly impacted the county from which it was carved, the defendant designated the legislation creating the MVDs ‘state’ and not ‘local’ legislation, so as to nullify the right of certain of the aggrieved legislator plaintiffs to vote on the legislation that created the MVDs, and directly affected their constituencies, prior to the legislation being presented to the entire legislative body.
“Furthermore, despite the fact that the legislation associated with the creation of the MVDs was deemed ‘state’ wide legislation, the defendant prohibited the majority of black voters in Fulton County and DeKalb County from voicing their opinions on the MVDs, by only allowing local referendums, e.g., the putative residents of Sandy Springs of Milton, to vote on the creation of the MVDs.
“Lastly, the defendant’s creation of the MVDs, and all the ancillary acts necessary to create the MVDs, served no apparent state purpose or objective, as the acts were not done in response to the traditional triggers for redistricting, e.g., new U.S. Census results.”
The plaintiffs say that the “carving” of white-dominated MVDs “constitutes an act of redistricting and reverse annexation, which clearly subjects the creation of the MVDs to the standards found in the VRA [Voting Rights Act of 1965].”
And they say that the plan to carve Milton County out of the northern half of Fulton County would create another white-dominated voting district in a minority-dominated region.
The plaintiffs want the city charters “deemed null and void,” and the state enjoined from implementing any other legislation, such as HR 21, the plan to create Milton County, which would racially gerrymander voting districts.
They are represented by Jerome Lee with Hernan Taylor & Lee of Norcross.