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Ga. expects decision on new maps today
Justice Department approval needed for redistricting, but state also has lawsuit pending
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The U.S. Department of Justice is expected to rule on Georgia's redrawn voting maps today.

The federal agency will issue a decision on whether the state's newly reconfigured districts for representation in the state House and Senate and U.S. House of Representatives meet requirements of the Voting Rights Act.

State leaders have sought the Justice Department's approval for the maps, but have concurrently filed a federal lawsuit in U.S. District Court to have them precleared.

Gov. Nathan Deal's chief spokesman says the governor is confident the maps will get
administrative approval, however.

"We feel good about our maps," said Deal spokesman Brian Robinson. "We know we've got a great product and we feel strongly that we should get federal approval."

If so, it will be the first time in the history of the Voting Rights Act that Georgia has received an administrative OK for its voting districts on the first try, said Robinson.

Republicans in Georgia handled the process from start to finish for the first time in Georgia history this year.

Lawmakers redraw political boundaries every 10 years after census numbers are released to account for changes in population. The process is notoriously partisan.

Georgia's General Assembly convened for a two-week special session in mid-August to redraw the boundaries.

"We in this redistricting year, under Republican authority in all branches of government for the first time ever, have had the most open, fair and transparent redistricting process that Georgia has ever seen," Robinson said.

Under the Voting Rights Act, Georgia must receive federal approval for all election-related changes because of its past history of discrimination at the ballot box. As a result, the state's redistricting efforts have faced legal challenges in the past.

Already, more than 4,000 comments have been submitted to the justice department on the effort.

Few praised the process, and most cried foul that the maps were politically-biased in favor of Republicans.

Robinson said the state plans to drop its suit in federal court if the justice department preclears all three of the state's maps. The suit, Robinson said, was a "safety valve."

It's a strategy that was also employed by Louisiana, Virginia and Alabama.

This year, the state's growing population earned it a 14th U.S. House seat, a new 9th District that lawmakers placed in the Northeast corner of the state that includes Hall County.

Georgia's new maps passed the state House and Senate and have been signed by Deal. They do not take effect until they receive federal preclearance.

"We have to have elections in 2012," Robinson said. "The candidates and voters need time to prepare for races and to decide who's going to run. That takes time and we have got to get this process completed."


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