A federal judge on Thursday ruled that the Georgia legislature had complied with orders to draw voting maps that allowed Black voters an equal opportunity to elect representatives of their choice, signing off on new districts created earlier this month.
The Republican-led legislature had drawn new state and congressional maps during a December special session, after a federal judge in Atlanta said the original districts created after the 2020 census violated the landmark 1965 Voting Rights Act.
Democrats and Black voters in the state objected to the new maps, which created an additional majority-Black congressional district but were unfavorable to Representative Lucy McBath, a Democratic congresswoman. It also ensured that Republican incumbents in both the state House and Washington would be protected from a primary political challenger for their seats.
But Judge Steve C. Jones of the Northern District of Georgia, who first struck down the maps in late October, said that the legislature had now done enough to comply with the Voting Rights Act.
“The court finds that the General Assembly fully complied with this court’s order requiring the creation of a majority-Black congressional district in the region of the state where vote dilution was found,” said Judge Jones, who was nominated to his post by President Barack Obama.
Beyond the question of fair representation, there were additional political stakes. With the House of Representatives narrowly divided and Black voters historically inclined to support Democrats in the state, a new map had the potential to tip the balance of power in Washington.
In Alabama, where a challenge brought by Black voters led to a surprise Supreme Court ruling this summer that affirmed the core remaining tenet of the Voting Rights Act, a federal court ordered that a new map be independently drawn after finding that the Legislature had failed to resolve existing inequities in the state.
Similar challenges are underway in other states.
The challenges to the state and congressional districts in Georgia were brought by a number of plaintiffs, including the African Methodist Episcopal Church and members of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, the nation’s oldest Black fraternity. Both organizations represent hundreds of members in the state of Georgia.
The redistricting feud came after Democrats whittled away at Republican dominance in the state over several election cycles — driven in part by a substantial growth of Black voters since 2000. In 2020, voters elected a Democrat for president for the first time since 1992 and then sent two Democrats to the Senate in 2021.
Republicans had repeatedly sought to tamp down that influence, including during the special session in early December.
While the new maps created an additional majority-Black district in the state, Republicans also effectively drew Ms. McBath, the Black Democrat who represents large pieces of Fulton and Gwinnett Counties in Atlanta’s northeastern suburbs, out of her seat. They also preserved the party’s four-seat majority in the state’s congressional delegation.