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Thursday, September 1, 2011 - 1:55pm

Dems Weigh Next Steps on Maps

Georgia’s new election district maps will soon head to the federal government for approval. Gov. Nathan Deal and other Republican lawmakers are deciding how to submit the maps. Democrats are also weighing their options.

Gov. Deal will choose between submitting the maps to the U.S. Department of Justice for review or going through the federal courts.

Georgia must obtain federal approval for any changes to its election maps, under the Voting Rights Act. The process of obtaining approval for the maps is called ‘pre-clearance.’

Democrats say the new maps violate the act because they dilute minority voting strength in crossover districts where black voters can form multi-racial coalitions with white voters and others.

But Minority Leader Stacey Abrams says it’s still not clear if state Democrats will sue over the maps.

“The question is, who sues whom?," she said an interview. "If there is pre-clearance, then we sue. If there isn’t pre-clearance, then they sue. Someone is going to file a suit. It’s just a question of who does it. And right now the determining factor is whether the Justice Department pre-clears the maps.”

Republicans say they have followed the Voting Rights Act because they increased the number of districts where minorities are in the majority. They say the law and subsequent court cases don't mandate the creation of these so-called crossover districts.

Rep. Roger Lane chairs the redistricting committee. In an interview Wednesday, he said taking the maps to a federal court might be quicker. That's because he says it's possible Obama's Department of Justice could change the standard by which it judges the maps.

Abrams agrees it’s unclear what the Justice Department will do, but for different reasons.

“Republican administrations have pre-cleared Democratic maps, and there’s no reason to believe that inversely, a Democratic administration would be oppositional to Republicans," she said. "The job of the Justice Department is to look at the maps on their face.”

Deal released a statement Thursday, saying he had met with Attorney General Sam Olens and other state leaders about submitting the maps but they took no decision on the method of obtaining approval.