May 9, 2024 - News

Georgia Supreme Court dismisses Cobb district map case

a side by side comparison of the cobb district maps drawn by legislators and county commissioners

The map on the left is the Cobb commission district map approved by state legislators. The map on the right is the one Cobb commissioners adopted as its "home rule" map. Images: Legislative and Congressional Reapportionment Office

The Georgia Supreme Court ruled Thursday that two residents can't challenge Cobb County's decision to redraw its commission district map.

Why it matters: The ruling does not take up the larger question in the case: whether it's constitutional for the county to revise maps drawn by the state legislature.

  • This means voters will head to the polls for the May 21 primary and cast ballots for candidates based on the county-approved district lines.

Catch up quick: In 2022, state legislators began redrawing district lines for county commissions and local boards of education following the 2020 census.

  • Republican state legislators representing Cobb introduced a new map that put two incumbents — Democrat Jerica Richardson and Republican JoAnn Birrell — in one district.
  • The General Assembly adopted that map and signed it into law.

Citing the Home Rule clause in the Georgia Constitution, county commissioners adopted their redrawn district map in place of the one approved by legislators.

  • Cobb residents David and Catherine Floam sued the county, and a Cobb Superior Court ruled in January that it was unconstitutional for the county's Board of Commissioners to redraw its district boundaries.
  • Cobb appealed the decision to the state Supreme Court.

What they're saying: In the opinion released Thursday, the justices reversed the lower court's ruling.

  • "They [the Floams] have not established that they are insecure about some future action they plan to take, and they have not shown a need to declare rights upon which their future conduct depends," presiding Justice Nels S.D. Peterson wrote for the court.
  • The ruling was issued less than a month after the court heard oral arguments.
  • "I am pleased that the county has prevailed in our appeal," said Commission Chair Lisa Cupid.

Yes, but: A concurring opinion penned by Justice Charlie Bethel expresses concerns about delays in determining the outcome of the larger question.

  • "A delayed loss by Cobb could give rise to calamitous consequences inflicting serious expense and practical hardship on its citizens," he wrote. "Accordingly, I urge Cobb to act with all dispatch in obtaining a final answer on the legal merits of its chosen path."
  • Ray Smith III, the attorney representing the Floams, told Axios he and his clients are considering filing a motion to reconsider based on Bethel's concerns.
  • "If I'm Cobb County, I wouldn't be celebrating," he said.

Friction point: Cobb used the redrawn map to qualify for the 2024 primary and general election.

  • This led to confusion among some candidates who thought they lived in the districts where they were running, but were disqualified under the county map, the AJC reports.

Cobb's decision has drawn criticism from Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr, who filed a brief asking the court to strike down Cobb's map, and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, who said the county's "irresponsible decision" to use its map could disenfranchise voters.


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