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Holder's redistricting group backs new lawsuits in 3 states

Tony Pugh, McClatchy Washington Bureau on

Published in News & Features

WASHINGTON -- A group backed by Democratic former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder wants one new majority-black congressional district in Alabama, Georgia and Louisiana in time for the 2020 general elections, according to new federal lawsuits filed Wednesday in each state.

The legal challenges, which are supported by Holder's National Redistricting Foundation, an affiliate of the National Democratic Redistricting Committee -- a political action committee chaired by Holder -- claim the new majority-minority districts are needed because each state's current electoral maps violate the federal Voting Rights Act by depriving black voters of the ability to elect representatives of their choice.

Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp, Louisiana Secretary of State R. Kyle Ardoin and Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill are defendants in the filings, which note each state's history of racially polarized voting and disenfranchisement of black voters.

"You can't ignore the progress we've made over the past half century, but there's no doubt that in too many places, African Americans are still not afforded an equal opportunity to participate in our electoral process," Holder told McClatchy.

The lawsuits are the latest move by Holder and Democrats to undo the political advantage that they say GOP lawmakers obtained by crafting favorable state legislative and congressional districts in 2011 based on 2010 Census data.

The GOP's national redistricting effort, known as "Operation REDMAP," helped Republicans capture more seats in Congress and in state legislative races in 2012, 2014 and 2016.

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The party that controls the statehouse also controls the redistricting process and typically draws political districts with safe majorities of their likely voters.

But minority-party voters are often spread strategically into several districts to dilute their influence or clustered into a few districts, which can limit their influence. Both tactics, known as "cracking" and "packing" allow the party in power to hold on to more seats.

The new lawsuits, each filed on behalf of more than a dozen black plaintiffs, claim each state's 2011 congressional redistricting plans weakened black voting strength by either "packing" them into one district or "cracking" black voters into several districts.

If true, that would violate Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act that prohibits any "standard, practice or procedure," such as redistricting, that would "deny or abridge the right of any citizen of the United States to vote on account of race or color."

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