The state Senate tabled a bill Wednesday that would change the makeup of the Fulton County Commission. Democrats argue the measure is part of a wider GOP effort to assert more control over districts with predominantly black voters.
Despite tabling it for the day, the Senate will take up the bill along with other measures aimed at changing Fulton County’s voting districts.
The bill would remove one county-wide seat, and replace it with a district that’s majority white.
Sen. Vincent Fort is an Atlanta Democrat. He says a bill such as this one is distracting lawmakers from more pressing concerns such as ethics legislation.
But he says it’s problematic for other reasons, too.
“If this redistricting bill passes, we are going to beat a path either to the federal court and/or the Department of Justice," he said in an interview. "We think this would be violative of the Voting Rights of 1965.”
That law requires Georgia to gain approval for changes to election districts to ensure they don’t dilute minority voting strength.
Fort also says Atlanta isn't the only target.
Rep. Allen Peake drafted bills that would make Macon municipal elections nonpartisan, which some say would disenfranchise black voters. The Macon Republican dismisses the Democrats’ complaints as sour grapes.
“For years, when the Democrats had the majority of the local delegations, they did whatever they wanted to do," he said in an interview. "Well, now, that the tide has turned a little bit and Republicans hold the majority in these local delegations, they want to cry foul every time we want to move an agenda forward.”
Peake’s nonpartisan election bills have cleared the legislature, and are awaiting approval by the U.S. Department of Justice.