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Court overturns redistricting plans

By Michael Davis

A three-judge federal panel on Tuesday overturned Georgia's redistricting plans for the state House and Senate, saying they violated the principle of one person, one vote.

The court enjoined the state from using the maps in legislative elections this summer and fall and gave the Legislature until March 1 to draw new maps or face the possibility the court might do it.

The Legislature currently is in session but the ruling caught legislative leaders without a plan for dealing with the problem.

"Naturally it's something that will change the whole complexity of the session," said House Rules Chairman Calvin Smyre, D-Columbus.

Frank Strickland, a lawyer for the Republican activists who filed the suit, declared, "It's a great day in Georgia."

Rep. John Yates, R-Griffin, said that many Republican lawmakers personally contributed about $500 to funding the suit.

"It's exactly what we put our money on," Yates said. He said the districts, as they are drawn now, keep representatives "too busy," representing to large a population. "It didn't have to be screwed up like it is here," he said.

The maps were drawn following the 2000 Census when Democrats held majorities in both houses and used their clout to try to cement their majority at the expense of Republicans.

One strategy was to shift black voters from districts in which they were an overwhelming majority to adjacent, Republican-leaning districts where they might help elect Democrats.

In a first legal challenge of the plan, Republicans failed to convince the U.S. Supreme Court that the redistricting maps illegally diluted black voting strength.

A second challenge ? the one which produced Tuesday's ruling ? was filed in U.S.