Rep. Lucy McBath, D-Ga., speaks during a rally near Capitol Hill in Washington on June 8, 2022. Georgia Republicans on Friday, Dec. 1, 2023, proposed to radically transform McBath's current district for the second time in two years during a special legislative session to redraw congressional and legislative maps.

U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath's current district is again radically transformed during a special legislative 2023 session to redraw congressional and legislative maps.

Credit: AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File

Georgia lawmakers have approved a new congressional map that keeps a 9-5 advantage for Republicans, complying with a court's order to add a majority-Black district but setting up a legal showdown over the districts it changed to create that seat.

The new U.S. House boundaries would double the number of congressional seats in Georgia that have a majority of its voting age residents identify as any part Black, with a new 6th District located in Atlanta's western suburbs and a shifted 5th District including more Black voters, joining the current 4th and 13th as majority-Black.

But the creation of a new district that would likely elect a Democrat is neutered by the retooling of the majority-nonwhite 7th District currently held by Democratic U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath into an overwhelmingly white, overwhelmingly Republican seat that stretches from Atlanta's northern suburbs into the north Georgia mountains.

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U.S. District Judge Steve Jones ordered lawmakers to convene in a special session and add eight Black-majority districts to its political maps: five in the state House, two in the state Senate and one in the U.S. House, after he found a number of districts violated the Voting Rights Act and disenfranchised the power of Black voters in a state that has seen explosive population growth and increasingly competitive statewide races in recent years.

The GOP-controlled legislature has approved new redistricting plans that comply with the judge's order on paper: The number of majority-Black districts in each map are increased by the amount the court ordered, with the congressional map adding two Black districts instead of one.

But the reality of the changes largely preserves the existing partisan split in each body by reshuffling other districts to largely switch which Democrats Black voters would vote for.

For the congressional maps in particular, Democrats and voting rights groups argue the creation of two majority-Black House seats comes at the expense of dismantling the 7th District's current majority-minority coalition and violates Jones' order stating that the changes should not be made “by eliminating minority opportunity districts elsewhere.”

But Republicans have argued that the order only specifically deals with keeping existing majority-Black districts.

"Well, I agree it is meaningful language, but it does not have the meaning that my friends across the aisle ascribe to it," House Redistricting Chairman Rob Leverett (R-Elberton) said Thursday. "And the reason it doesn't is because that 'minority opportunity districts,' as it's being construed by our friends across the aisle, was never mentioned in that phrasing or that definition in the case. ... In the context of this case, the minority that was being discussed whose rights were trying to be vindicated were Black voters."

While the congressional, state House and state Senate maps now head to Gov. Brian Kemp's desk for his signature, the plans will go before Jones in a Dec. 20 hearing.