Jul 26, 2023 - Politics

Cobb County school board map lawsuit moves forward

Illustration of a pattern of gavels.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

The legal fight over whether Cobb County's new school board maps unlawfully pack voters of color will continue.

Driving the news: U.S. District Court Judge Eleanor Ross ruled last week that a case brought by several groups, including the ACLU of Georgia and the Southern Poverty Law Center, could proceed.

Catch up quick: The Cobb school board in 2021 approved new district maps, and they passed over the protest of Democratic Cobb County lawmakers last year.

  • Redrawing district boundaries for school boards and county commissions is done by the state legislature following each U.S. Census.
  • School boards and county commissions can recommend new boundaries for the legislature to adopt, but state lawmakers have the final say.
  • The organizations, which represent four Cobb residents, sued the Board of Elections over the map, arguing that it violated the constitution by disproportionately grouping voters of color into three districts.

The intrigue: In her ruling, Ross limited the lawsuit to the Cobb Board of Elections — ruling the school district itself cannot be held liable. The school district, which had not been listed as a party in the lawsuit, joined as a defendant. But now, it's just the elections board.

  • Daniel White, an attorney for the board, told Axios that his client doesn't have a position on whether the maps are constitutional since it only is tasked with enforcing what the legislature enacts.
  • "We don't know whether they're good maps or they're unconstitutional maps," he said. "That's really not my job to decide that, but the court seems to want my client to defend it. So we've got some decisions to make [going] forward."

The district in a statement called the lawsuit an “unfortunate extension of efforts by political activists and organizations to exert influence in Cobb County’s schools.”

The other side: Poy Winichakul, an attorney with Southern Poverty Law Center, said the groups are pleased that the judge is allowing the case to proceed.

What we’re watching: Four Cobb school board members, three of whom voted in favor of the controversial maps, are up for re-election in 2024.

  • A spokesperson for the Southern Poverty Law Center, told Axios no date has been set for the case to be heard.

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