With the redistricting debate heating up in preparation for the 2012 election, one jurisdiction that is subject to preclearance under section 5 of the Voting Rights Act is injecting partisanship into what Georgia House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams said “is not about politicians,” The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports.
Republicans who control the process in Georgia, she explains, plan to create 49 “majority-minority” House districts, an increase of seven over the current arrangement. Abrams contends that the goal of this process is to ensure Republican two-thirds majorities so that it can enact state constitutional amendments without Democratic votes. “They accomplished this by purging the state of Georgia of white Democrats. Almost without exception in the Fulton-DeKalb area, if you are a white Democrat who is near an African-American, you were paired and you are going to have to run against one another,” said Abrams.
Although the Voting Rights Act requires the state to preclear changes to election practices and procedures, Abrams said Republicans are using it as a weapon because the landmark law generally prevents the dilution of minority voting strength.
“What they’ve said to every member who questioned [why] they were going to get competition … they said the Voting Rights Act made me do it,” she said. “When you use suppression by inclusion it is a violation of the Voting Rights spirit. It is a craven and cynical attempt to say we as Georgians don’t know what we’re getting.”
At the 2011 ACS National Convention, a panel of legal experts discussed redistricting. Kristen Clarke of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund said, “We’re becoming an increasingly diverse nation.” But with that increased diversity, J. Gerald Herbert of the Campaign Legal Center noted, who controls the redistricting process becomes increasingly important. He elicited a prickly laughter when he quoted Thomas Hofeller, the man the Republican National Committee hired to direct their redistricting efforts, saying, “If you don’t think it matters who draws the districts, then let me draw them.” Herbert conceded, “It’s a lot easier to defend a map once you’ve drawn it because there are so few legal arrows in the quiver to really shoot a plan down. It’s much better to be drawing a map than challenging a map.”
In a recent ACSblog post, Dr. Greg Rabidoux highlights two upcoming cases in which the Supreme Court may take up the constitutionality of the Voting Rights Act. He concludes, “[t]he VRA, especially section 5, may not be dead but it sure has seen better days. And that could mean one less weapon in the arsenal to flight clearly partisan maps that do wrong to minorities. Again.”