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Everything you need to know about redistricting in Georgia

Redistricting in Georgia has been a dizzying process. From trying to decipher the maps and legislative language to figuring out what it all means to you as a voter, we've answered your most common redistricting questions with an update on what's happening now and what you can do about it.

What was the vote result of the reapportionment bill HB20EX?

  • HB 20EX - Georgia Congressional Reapportionment Act of 2011 was passed in the House on August 25th 2011 and passed in the Senate on August 31
  • The Governor signed the bill on September 6th 2011
  • The bill is now headed to federal courts for approval under the Voting Rights Act
  • Depending on the court’s decision, the Georgia State Legislature will then determine when and if the bill will go into effect.

What is the voting rights act?
The Voting Rights Act (VRA) bans racial discrimination in voting practices by the federal government as well as by state and local governments.

Passed in 1965 after a century of deliberate and violent denial of the vote to African-Americans in the South and Latinos in the Southwest – as well as many years of entrenched electoral systems that shut out citizens with limited fluency in English – the VRA is often held up as the most effective civil rights law ever enacted. It is widely regarded as enabling the enfranchisement of millions of minority voters and diversifying the electorate and legislative bodies at all levels of American government.

(Information taken from the Department of Justice)

How does the voting rights act apply to redistricting?
Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act applies the re-drawing of district lines nation wide as it forbids a voting standard, practice or procedure from reducing the opportunity of members of a covered minority to participate in the political process and to elect representatives of their choice. In practical terms, this non-discrimination provision prohibits districting practices that, among other things, result in "packing" minorities into a single precinct in an effort to limit their voting strength. Also, "fracturing" or "cracking" minority populations into small groups in a number of precincts, so that their overall voting strength is diminished, can be discrimination under Section 2. There is no magic number that designates the threshold of packing or cracking. Each plan must be judged on a case-by-case basis.

 Section 5 is different. It applies only to certain places with a history of discrimination and is intended to remedy that discrimination and prevent retrogression. Section 5 forbids a state from diminishing the minority community’s ability to elect the candidate of its choice. Once a community like that has built power, you cannot diminish that power.

(Information taken from the Department of Justice)

 What is retrogression? Is it happening in Georgia?
Retrogression applies to the Department of Justice to a pre-clearance review under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act as to whether the new plan has the purpose or the effect of denying or abridging the right to vote on account of race or color. This Section 5 standard has been called the "retrogression" standard. In effect, it considers whether a minority group has been made worse off by a proposed change in voting standards, practices or procedures, such as a redistricting plan.

So, what the majority party has done in Georgia during the 2011 redistricting process is pack minority-majority districts. Rather then have a district reflect a multicultural community – they have created several black and one Latino majority-minority districts,  but eliminated many districts with strong multiracial coalitions that allowed minorities coalesced with whites to elect the candidate of their choice. This is taking away the power that minorities in those districts have built and thus is considered by many Georgians to be retrogression.

 What can Georgians do?
Tell the courts and your elected officials that you want your voting rights back!

Your Representatives
Department of Justice

State Attorney General


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