Statewide Database | Redistricting News

Panel refuses to allow unconstitutional map to be used

MARK NIESSE, Associated Press Writer
Thursday, February 19, 2004

A federal appeals panel refused Thursday to allow a disputed voting map to be used in Georgia legislative elections this year, despite pleas from state officials who say there may not be time to put new districts in place.

The ruling was a victory for Republican state legislators, who now will have input in trying to redraw the voting maps in time for the July 20 primary election.

The three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decided there was no reason to put a hold on an earlier ruling that said the state's voting maps for federal officeholders -- drawn when the state Legislature was controlled by Democrats -- unfairly put more people in some districts than in others.

David Walbert, an attorney for Georgia Secretary of State Cathy Cox, said he would appeal the ruling to the Supreme Court.

Judge Stanley Marcus said Democrats who originally drew the map wanted to skew election results in their favor and said they ignored the principle of one person, one vote.

"They systematically and intentionally diluted the weight of people's right to vote because of their place of residence," Marcus said as he announced his ruling from the bench. "What was done in no way resembles anything the Supreme Court has found Constitutional."

Last week, the same appeals panel overturned Georgia's redistricting plans for the state House and Senate, saying Democrats who drew them also did not try to make district populations equal.

The judges gave the Legislature until March 1 to draw its own maps. If lawmakers fail to do so, the court may draw the state's maps itself.

"The constitutional rights of Georgia's voters have been violated," GOP Sen. Eric Johnson said after Thursday's ruling.

Johnson said Cox should drop further appeals and work on preparations for the coming elections: "She should be on her knees begging to stop the legal proceedings and fix Georgia's voting rights."

Cox's spokesman, Chris Riggall, said it would be difficult for new maps to be drawn and voting computers reprogrammed in time for the election.