ATLANTA — Lawyers representing an Athens lawmaker seeking to undo Republican-backed changes to her hometown political map argued Tuesday that the plan was an “evil undermining the political process.”

State attorneys quickly countered by questioning whether a three-judge panel weighing the case wishes to become a “super-legislator” that tinkers with a legislative plan signed into law by the governor.

The back-and-forth was the culmination of a bitter partisan battle over Republican plans to split the Democratic stronghold of Athens in half.

Earlier this year, the Republican-controlled Legislature approved a new map that splits Athens-Clarke County into two Senate districts. State Rep. Jane Kidd, who had announced plans to seek an open Senate seat, and other Democrats accused Republicans of making the change to give their party an advantage.

Lawyers representing Kidd filed a motion in U.S. District Court in Atlanta asking a three-judge panel to rule this year’s map change unconstitutional and prevent the new map from being used in this year’s elections.

At stake is more than the fate of the trio of northeast Georgia Senate districts caught up in the court battle. A victory for the state could embolden the ruling Republicans to tinker with more districts while a defeat could set a stinging precedent.

Emmet Bondurant, Kidd’s attorney, argued that the move was an “egregious” redrawing of the political maps designed to elect a Republican lawmaker.

“The connection is unavoidable,” said Bondurant, a veteran of redistricting cases. “This is a classic political gerrymandering. And it’s classically unnecessary.”

The state’s attorneys asserted that the redrawing was not dictated by politics, but a desire to better serve communities of interest.

The eastern half of the Athens split bunches together the city’s bedroom communities while the western part groups a surging corridor that is fast becoming part of metro Atlanta, said Dennis Dunn, a deputy attorney general and the office’s resident reapportionment specialist.

He added that Sen. Ralph Hudgens, the Republican who sponsored the changes and would represent the city’s eastern half, had twice before sought to redraw the maps to unite Madison County under one district.

If the plan is rejected, Dunn warned the panel, “you have done damage to the idea that an elected state legislator can do this better than a judge.”

The plan was approved by the Senate 34-18 and the House 100-69, largely along party lines, before it was signed by Gov. Sonny Perdue in March.

Kidd had been uncertain whether to run for the open Senate seat after the changes passed. She decided last week to qualify for the race, saying she wanted to send a positive message to her supporters that she would contend for the spot regardless of the court’s decision.

The seat is being vacated by Brian Kemp, a Republican seeking to become the state agricultural commissioner. Kidd faces Republican Bill Cowsert, an attorney who is Kemp’s brother-in-law.

Last week, the three-judge panel called for an emergency hearing and extended qualifying by a week for the three Senate districts as well as 13 House districts redrawn this session. The qualifying period ends Friday.

The panel’s decision could come as early as today.

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