Too much hurry during the recent holiday bacchanalia was my first thought when I saw the banner flash across the computer screen. Then I considered that my eyes were playing tricks on me, so I searched a second online source to make sure what I had read was correct.
Two days before Christmas, the Obama administration delivered a blow to state Democrats and I couldn’t believe my eyes. Among the unexpected headlines that declared the breaking news, “Feds OK Georgia voting lines, GOP advantage,” and “Feds approves Georgia redistricting.”
Even before the numbers were dry on the 2010 census figures, Democrats had asserted that any future maps drawn by rascally Republicans would violate the 45-year old Voting Rights Act, dilute numbers of minority voters and unfairly target white Democrats for defeat.
By the way, much of the partisan vs. nonpartisan election debate that we’re enduring in Macon/Bibb County is rooted in the same misguided approach.
On the state level, there were charges that the GOP would “turn back the clock” and disenfranchise minority voters. So, I was confident that if this dissatisfaction had legitimacy, President Barack Obama and our Justice Department would lawfully stop such voting bias.
However, based on the fresh ruling, the out-of-date complaints leveled by Democratic leaders turned out to be unsubstantiated. Attorneys within the Justice Department handed Georgia Republicans a triumph of sorts by agreeing that the proposed political boundaries did not violate the 1965 law.
This is a major development, because it’s the first time since passage of the Voting Rights Act that redistricting has been conducted with Democrats controlling the White House.
In the decree, it was clear that Attorney General Eric Holder believed the GOP is acting reasonably under their suggested maps. In fact, the GOP argues they’re increasing the number of districts with a majority of black voters.
The official ruling now shifts the burden on Democrats to file a lawsuit challenging the maps in court, effectively suing the state of Georgia and attempting to prove President Obama and Mr. Holder wrong.
In a judicious move, Republicans simultaneously sent their proposed maps to the Justice Department for preclearance and sued the department in federal court. The theory is that if the Justice Department had rejected the maps, the state of Georgia would have proceeded with its lawsuit, reiterating that preclearance is unconstitutional.
For the past five years, Republicans in the U.S. Congress have claimed the provision of Section 5 that requires pre-certification to be unlawful and should either be eliminated entirely or extended to include all 50 states.
It’s my opinion, this recent decision helps advance the notion we should remain under the vigilant eye of the Justice Department, continuing to seek preclearance, despite the monetary costs.
Without this mechanism, Georgia, and especially the current Republican Party, would be viewed as constantly and deliberately thinning voter strength based on ethnicity. Keeping the prerequisite in place takes the wind out of the Democrats’ racially charged tactic.
If there is one lesson I learned by watching former Georgia House Speaker Tom Murphy and his crowd of Democrats while they were in control, it is this: New political boundaries are an opportunity to reduce the capacity of the opposing party to win elections.
And now, the cartography controlled by Republicans has made for a not-so-happy start to the New Year for progressives, liberals, blue dogs and their ilk.
Kenny Burgamy serves as a marketing consultant and is co-host of the Kenny B. Charles E., TV, radio and Internet program.