Jason Carter on Georgia’s Redistricting Plan

Here is the video of President Jimmy Carter’s grandson, Georgia State Senator Jason Carter, from the Well of the Georgia Senate giving an enlightened explanation about the Voting Rights Act, and how Georgia’s redistricting process has manipulated that Act to undermine multiracial coalitions and increase racial polarization. It’s only 9 minutes long.

Text of the speech after the break.

H/T Blog For Democracy

Statement of Senator Jason Carter
August 31, 2011
Thank you Mr. President.
I am convinced that redistricting is important. Make no mistake: this is where we create the rules of our political system. In making these maps, our legislature defines the very structure of our democracy.

Over the course of the last few weeks, I have heard others misstate and misapply the law;
and perpetuate intentional falsehoods about the Voting Rights Act. And I don’t know that I
understood the magnitude of what was going on until this last weekend.

I kept trying to understand how the majority party could read the law and understand our history and come to the conclusion that they were correct about the Voting Rights Act.
And, as I sat with John Lewis before his testimony in the House Reapportionment Committee I
realized – they don’t want to follow the Voting Rights Act.

You want to change the Voting Rights Act because you don’t like the result.

You want to turn the Voting Rights Act on its head by turning it into a tool of racial division
instead of the tool of reconciliation that is intended to be.

And so there has been a campaign of misinformation about the meaning of Section 5 of the
Voting Rights Act. This campaign has confused the public, it has confused the media and it
almost confused me.

I rise today to set the record straight.

In drawing these maps, there are two sections of the Voting Rights Act: Section 2 and Section 5.
These are different laws.

Section 2 applies to the whole country and ensures equality of opportunity.

But Section 5 is different. It applies only in certain places with a history of discrimination, and
it is there to remedy that discrimination and insure that places like Georgia do not take any steps backward.

Section 5 forbids a state from diminishing a minority community’s ability to elect the candidate
of its choice – once that community has built power, the state cannot diminish that power. This is
called “retrogression” – and it is illegal by command of the United States.

Now, the majority party has paraded around the halls of this Capitol with the case of Bartlett v.
Strickland. The Senator from the 46th talked about it on the floor of this Chamber, and on the
radio. The Republican Whip in the House sent it out to his email list and talked about it on the
floor of his Chamber.

The Republican lawyers have apparently advised the majority party that this Bartlett case says
that the Voting Rights Act does not care about any district unless that district is a majority minority.

You’ve been told that this Bartlett case says that you don’t consider multiracial coalitions or “cross over districts” where the black community is not a majority, but where they can band together with whites and still elect the candidate of their choice.

The Republican lawyers have created this legal theory – and the majority party has used it as an
excuse to destroy multiracial coalitions at every opportunity.

As the maps stand today, in this Senate, there are 14 districts that are majority minority. And
there are at least 7 where a multiracial coalition can – and has – elected a candidate of its choice.

Your new map creates one additional majority minority district, at the expense of at least 4
districts where multiracial coalitions have been successful. One of those crossover districts, the
14th, is eliminated entirely.

This congressional map does the same thing. It eliminates three crossover districts in favor of
two majority-minority ones.

This is the definition of retrogression.

In targeting and penalizing multiracial coalitions, this body has made it policy to say that black
districts should elect black candidates, and white districts should elect white ones.

And you have justified this choice by blaming it on the Voting Rights Act.

That claim is simply false. And the interpretation of the law that got you all there is wrong.
You have said that the Voting Rights Act requires the creation of majority minority districts.

The Supreme Court in Bartlett says the opposite: “Our holding also should not be interpreted to entrench majority-minority districts by statutory command…” Bartlett v. Strickland, 556 U.S. 1, 129 S. Ct. 1231, 1248, 173 L. Ed. 2d 173 (2009)

You have said that multiracial crossover districts don’t matter under the Voting Rights Act.
Again, the Supreme Court says the opposite: “[A]s the Court has noted in the context of § 5 of the Voting Rights Act, various studies have suggested that the most effective way to maximize minority voting strength may be to create more influence or crossover] districts.” Bartlett v. Strickland, 556 U.S. 1, 129 S. Ct. 1231, 1248, 173 L. Ed. 2d 173 (2009)

The Court goes on to say:

“Crossover districts are, by definition, the result of white voters joining forces with minority
voters to elect their preferred candidate. The Voting Rights Act was passed to foster this
cooperation.” Bartlett v. Strickland, 556 U.S. 1, 129 S. Ct. 1231, 1249, 173 L. Ed. 2d 173 (2009)

Most importantly the Court in Bartlett gave clear guidance about precisely the campaign that this General Assembly has waged against multiracial coalitions:
“[I]f there were a showing that a State intentionally drew district lines in order to destroy
otherwise effective crossover districts, that would raise serious questions under both the
Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments.” Bartlett v. Strickland, 556 U.S. 1, 129 S. Ct. 1231,
1249, 173 L. Ed. 2d 173 (2009).

That is what you did in the Senate Map. And, it is what you are doing in the 12th District in this
Congressional Map.

The Republican Whip in the House has been quoting the legislative history report issued when
Congress amended the Voting Rights Act in 2006. Let me tell you what that report really says
about multiracial coalitions and Section 5:

“Voting changes that leave a minority group less able to elect a preferred candidate of choice,
either directly or when coalesced with other voters, cannot be precleared under Section 5.” H.R.
REP. 109-467, P. 46, 109TH CONG. 2ND SESS. (2006).

That language could not be clearer. But the majority party has been walking around saying it
says the opposite. This is the bill of goods that the Republican lawyers have sold you. And, the
tax payers will have to pick up the tab.

Why do this? Why twist the law, and go to such great lengths to undermine the multiracial
coalitions that have been built in our state?

The answer is the same as always: partisan politics.

Here’s the elephant in the room: the majority party wants to destroy districts where multiracial
coalitions elect candidates because the majority does not like the candidates that those coalitions

And that is because multiracial coalitions in Georgia elect Democrats.

Let’s look at the data. In Georgia, we don’t keep track of how people vote by race. But we do
keep track of which party’s primary people vote in.

According to the Secretary of State’s webpage, the 2010 Republican primary was 95.7% white.

The 2008 Republican Presidential Primary was 95.7% white.

And in the July 2008 Primary it was 95.9% white.

By way of comparison, in that same July 2008 election, the Democratic Primary was 49.4% white

and 48.2% black.

Now, I have heard criticisms that the Voting Rights Act should not be a Democratic Incumbent
Protection Plan. And I agree.

But, it is clear that the Voting Rights Act protects the power that black voters have acquired by
building multiracial coalitions. That’s what Congress said, and that’s what the Supreme Court
has said, even in the Bartlett case that the Republicans have trumpeted.

And if the majority party doesn’t like the partisan results that come from protecting multiracial
coalitions, the answer is not to destroy the Voting Rights Act. The answer is to build some
multiracial coalitions of your own.

I will conclude with this:

I have heard numerous reports about how this round of redistricting is going to doom the

Democrats in Georgia. But the statistics demonstrate that if nothing changes, there is only one
Party that is doomed.

Today, the leadership of this state will confirm its policy of undermining multiracial coalitions.

But, in the end it won’t matter.

We live in an international community and a global economy. Every businessperson knows it.

The future of this state is a multi-cultural, multiracial future.

It is a future where people of all races will live together, work together, prosper together and will
govern this state together. And today, only one Party can claim to be the Party of that Future.

These maps are wrong. They will be struck down. And if you vote for them you will be on the
wrong side of history.

Mr. President, I yield the well.


  1. Burroughston Broch says:
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