The Republican-controlled state House approved new congressional district maps Thursday. Democrats say the maps are part of a systematic plan to isolate minority voters. But Republicans insist they are following federal laws designed to protect minority voters.
The draft congressional maps redraw Georgia's last white Democratic congressman out of his district. Congressman John Barrow of Savannah will have to move in order to run for his seat again.
The maps also remove a largely white Atlanta precinct from the district of Congressman John Lewis, a black Democrat.
But the draft passed 110 to 60. Gov. Nathan Deal says the maps abide by the federal Voting Rights Act by protecting minority voting districts, even as he questioned the law.
“The federal Voting Rights Act actually segregates the state of Georgia by the rules that are imposed upon us and just a few other Southern states," he said in an interview. "And I think we are in compliance with the federal Voting Rights Act in terms of the way those maps were drawn.”
The law requires Georgia to consider race when it draws political districts.
The maps now move to the state Senate for a vote.
A Democratic alternative will go to committee but Minority Leader Stacey Abrams says she doesn’t expect any action on it. The Atlanta Democrat accuses Republicans of manipulating the redistricting process.
“Super-majorities in both chambers and a 70 percent majority in a Congressional delegation does not happen by accident," Abrams said during floor debate. "In a state as diverse as Georgia, you have to work to get there.”
Republicans reject her arguments, saying they control both chambers because the majority of Georgians want them in office.
They also say they followed federal voting laws because their maps increase the number of districts that favor minorities.
Rep. Ed Lindsey, an Atlanta Republican, said the Voting Rights Act doesn't protect incumbency. He suggested that Democrats wanted to "shrink-wrap" Barrow's congressional district, despite shifting population trends.
Lawmakers expect to wrap up the special session by Labor Day.