Feds approve new Ga. political maps - WTVM.com-Columbus, GA News Weather & Sports

Feds approve new Ga. political maps


ATLANTA (AP) - The Obama administration hasapproved new political boundaries in Georgia despite complaints from stateDemocrats that the maps dilute minority voting strength.

The Department of Justice approved the mapsfor Congress, as well as for the state Senate and House, according to BrianRobinson, a spokesman for Gov. Nathan Deal.

The redrawn maps were approved by Georgialegislators in a three-week special session in August and Deal quickly signedthem into law.

It is the first time that Georgia Republicans- who now control both chambers of the state Legislature and the governor'smansion - have controlled the redistricting process from start to finish.

Georgia Democrats cried foul, accusingRepublicans of playing politics to solidify their hold on state power. It wasthe same claim Republicans made when Democrats ruled the state and controlledthe redrawing of political lines.

The new state House maps create eightadditional majority-black districts and set up 10 face-offs between incumbentsfrom the same party. The congressional map adds a fourth majority-blackdistrict in southwest Georgia. It also radically redraws the 12th congressionaldistrict represented by John Barrow, the last white Democrat in the U.S. Housefrom the Deep South.

Georgia Democrats and their allies counterthat by "packing" black voters into districts, they are actuallylimiting the ability of African-Americans to have more political influence andto form coalitions with others to select a candidate of their choice.

The state's rising population means Georgiagains an additional seat in the U.S. House. Republicans placed that district inthe conservative northeast corner of the state, which heavily favorsRepublicans

Georgia and eight other states - mostly inthe South - must receive pre-clearance of any election-related changes underthe Voting Rights Act, because of a past history of discrimination.

The state's Democrats have pledged tochallenge the boundaries in court, but it's unclear what their next step willbe. Democratic leaders did not immediately return calls seeking comment on thedecision.

Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act banscovered states and jurisdictions from diminishing black voters' ability toelect the candidate of their choice - saying essentially that once a state hasbuilt up minority voting power, it is illegal for the state to reduce thatvoting power.

Lawmakers must redraw legislative andcongressional maps every 10 years to line up political boundaries with new U.S.Census figures. In all, the maps set boundaries for 236 state legislators and14 U.S. House districts.

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