Two Black-Majority Congressional Districts Eliminated in Georgia
ATLANTA (AP) _ Two of Georgia’s three black-majority congressional districts were dismantled in a court remapping that angered black officials but gave both Republicans and Democrats some reasons for cautious praise.
The action Wednesday by a three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is likely to be appealed. The new map puts two of the state’s black Democratic members of Congress into newly drawn districts already held by white Republicans.
Georgia is the first of several states forced into a judicial redistricting by a U.S. Supreme Court decision against the practice of drawing odd-shaped districts solely to help ensure blacks get elected.
The task of redrawing the districts fell to the judges after the Legislature failed to do so in a five-week special session.
``It’s a pretty balanced result. You can’t say this map was designed to help Democrats or Republicans,″ Lt. Gov. Pierre Howard, a Democrat, said Wednesday.
State Attorney General Michael Bowers, a Republican, said he thought that the new map could let Republicans keep their current eight congressional seats from Georgia, and possibly gain one or two. The state has 11 districts in all.
But spreading out Georgia’s black vote also could help Democrats win back some districts lost to Republicans last year.
The plan was signed by U.S. District Judges B. Avant Edenfield and Dudley Bowen, both Democratic appointees. U.S. Circuit Judge J.L. Edmondson, a Republican appointee, dissented without comment.
Some black leaders expressed betrayal.
``These two Democratic appointees _ Judge Bowen and Judge Edenfield _ voted to dilute and rob African-Americans of two majority black seats,″ said state Rep. Tyrone Brooks, head of the Georgia Association of Black Elected Officials.
Rep. Cynthia McKinney, the first black woman elected to Congress from Georgia, was thrown into the district of Rep. John Linder, a white Republican. The district that first elected McKinney in 1992, running 250 miles from the eastern suburbs of Atlanta to Savannah on the Atlantic coast, was redrawn with no incumbent.
House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s district in the northern Atlanta suburbs is altered slightly but remains heavily Republican.
Rep. Sanford Bishop, a black Democrat from Columbus, ended up in the district held by white Republican Rep. Mac Collins.
Georgia’s only majority-black district under the new plan is the 5th District in Atlanta, now represented by Democratic Rep. John Lewis.
``Creating a second majority-minority district would require this court to engage in the unconstitutional racial gerrymandering characteristic of the plan we now replace. Georgians deserve a better fate,″ the judges wrote.