Georgia Court Blocks Racially Gerrymandered Cobb County School Board Map

Affiliate: ACLU of Georgia
December 15, 2023 11:00 am

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COBB COUNTY, GA — In a win for Black and Latinx voters, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia blocked the Cobb County School Board from using its racially gerrymandered map in an upcoming election because it violates the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

The Court granted the preliminary injunction in Karen Finn v. Cobb County Board of Elections and Registration, ruling that the Cobb County Board of Elections enacted a racial gerrymandered school board map after the 2020 U.S. Census. The injunction approves a motion to block the Cobb County Board of Elections and Registration from using the current map for the 2024 election cycle. The Court will work through a process that allows a temporary map to be used in the upcoming election, which will be held on May 21, 2024.

The lawsuit the injunction stems from alleges that the gerrymandered map diminishes the ability of Black and Latinx voters in Cobb County to equally participate in the political process of electing school board members. The Cobb County School Board governs the second-largest school district in Georgia.

” I am thrilled that the Court has ruled in our favor. As a former Cobb County student, it was important for my voice and the voices of our current and former students to be heard in this case,” said Hylah Daly, individual plaintiff. “We are standing against racial inequality so that all students will have fair representation. Following this lawsuit, we are working on an awareness campaign to ensure parents, students, and community members are informed about Cobb County School District’s upcoming election.

“It is essential that school board districts are drawn to represent Cobb County families and communities fairly, ” said Maxie Kirk-Williams, President of the League of Women Voters of Marietta-Cobb. “The League is pleased the Court ruled to protect voters of color by striking down a school board map drawn to divide us.”

Cobb County voters are deeply familiar with how crucial public education is to shaping the lives of our families,” said Jerry Gonzalez, CEO of the Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials. “We are encouraged that the body tasked with setting policy and making important decisions for Cobb County schools will be elected using fair maps in 2024.”

“The Cobb County School Board is tasked with making fundamental decisions on behalf of children and families, and we are deeply encouraged that the Court recognized that Black and Latinx voters are entitled to fair representation in electing these important local officials,” said Helen Butler, Executive Director of the Georgia Coalition for the People’s Agenda. “Our communities in Cobb County deserve to live free from racial discrimination, and this decision from the Court is a step in the right direction.”

“The Court’s decision is a resounding victory for voting rights,” said Poy Winchakul, senior staff attorney, SPLC. “Fair maps are essential to the democracy process and ensure Cobb County voters of color have an equal voice in schools.”.

“We applaud the Court’s decision to strike down the School Board maps, which unlawfully packed Black and Latinx voters into certain districts and diminished their voting power,” said Rahul Garabadu, senior voting rights attorney, ACLU of Georgia. “This is a victory for our clients and for all Cobb County voters who will now have an opportunity to vote under new, more equitable School Board district lines in the 2024 election cycle.”

“This decision affirms the fundamental right of Black and Latinx voters of Cobb County to fully and fairly participate in the democratic process by having an equal opportunity to elect members of their choice to the Cobb County School Board,” said Sofia Fernandez Gold, associate counsel at the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. “We look forward to ensuring constitutional maps are in place for the 2024 elections.”

“This is a clear victory for fair maps and equitable representation on the Cobb County School Board,” said Chris Shenton, voting rights lawyer at Southern Coalition for Social Justice. “The 14th Amendment promises that no individual will be denied equal protection under the law; The Court’s order ensures that promise will be fulfilled because of our clients’ efforts and courage.”

“The Court righted a wrong. We are very pleased with the Court’s well-reasoned order, which ensures that the voting rights of Black and Brown voters will be protected in Cobb County,” said Thomas Mott, attorney at Schulte Roth & Zabel LLP working in a pro bono capacity. “It has been a pleasure and a privilege to offer Schulte’s litigation know-how to our amazing co-counsel group, which is made up of some of the very best voting rights lawyers in the country. We look forward to continuing to fight for the rights of voters of color in Georgia.”

Southern Poverty Law Center, Southern Coalition for Social Justice, ACLU of Georgia, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, and Schulte, Roth & Zabel LLP filed the lawsuit on behalf of New Georgia Project Action Fund, the League of Women Voters of Marietta-Cobb, the Georgia Coalition for the People’s Agenda, the Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials, and individual Cobb County voters, parents, educators, and former students.

The Court’s order can be viewed here, and more information about this case, Karen Finn,v. Cobb County Board of Elections and Registration can be found here.

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