ATLANTA – In the middle of the Atlanta Braves’ World Series championship parade on Friday and after releasing the Georgia State Senate redistribution map proposed less than three days earlier, the Senate redistribution committee voted 9- 4 to approve the map despite requests from the public for more time to review it.
State Senate Committee Chairman John Kennedy R-Macon argued there had been ample time for public input as nearly a dozen hearings had taken place this year. In the days between the card’s release on Tuesday and the vote on Friday, only two public hearings were held.
Gloria Butler, chair of the Democratic Senate Caucus and a member of the Redistribution Committee, offered to cast a vote on the card, but he failed 10-4.
“The governor called us to a special session on November 3. We are here to do the business of the people and we cannot postpone it,” Kennedy said Thursday. “I will keep moving on the schedule. Forget that the Senate map is only one of three maps that we have to approve. We have to approve a House map and maybe some substantial work to be done on the maps. of Congress. ”
Kennedy and Bill Cowsert, R-Athens, vice-chairman of the committee, assured the public that the redistribution guidelines were being followed. Some of these guidelines, Cowsert said, include even-populated districts with less than 1% difference, racially non-discriminatory under the Voting Rights Act, contiguous districts, limiting county divisions, protecting communities of interest and avoiding the twinning of holders.
“These new cards respect cardholder feedback, but also include 14 majority black districts and 20 non-white majority districts,” Kennedy said.
Butler, however, pointed out areas on the proposed map where there appeared to be discrimination against minorities. She specifically mentioned Chatham, Bibb, Douglas, Henry and Athens-Clark counties.
“Where there was a minority population, it seems they were divided and the minority population was divided among these three (districts),” she said.
Kennedy argued that the splits were necessary due to population growth in these areas.
“These are large areas of population, this is where we have to divide,” Kennedy said. “This is where we maintain all the obligations we have, not just to this area, but the surrounding districts demand it. “
The sentiments of the public echoed those of Butler, with many voicing their displeasure at a rushed vote on the map and the shattering of minority counties and towns.
David Garcia of the Latino organization GALEO said the committee’s card discriminates against people of color. He referred to the Atlanta metro districts proposed for Cobb County – Districts 32, 37 and 56.
The proposal “grabs some of the diverse areas but combines them with the white populations of Bartow and Cherokee counties to dilute the voting power of minorities,” Garcia said.
Garcia also referred to proposed Senate Districts 45 and 46 in Gwinnett County, with parts of Suwanee and Dacula paired with “white” counties to the west in what he saw as an effort to water down the vote. minorities.
Duro Haynes, a resident of Henry County, said the same about his area.
“In what world does it make sense – for example, District 17 – which includes the town of McDonough, to expand into Morgan County and leave out another town in Henry County.” The only way that makes any rational sense to me is that it’s a power grab, ”Haynes said.
Fair Districts GA and Princeton Gerrymandering Project – both independent and non-partisan groups – weighed in on the map, analyzing continuity, compactness, county boundaries, and partisan and racial equity.
Groups have given the map an “F”.
“The Senate is proposing additional GOP districts and fewer Democratic districts, both of which are outliers from expected benchmarks,” the groups said in a press release. “Both groups have 19 extreme districts outside the expected range. Finally, the map drawn by the Senate committee further separates the cities from the existing divisions, thus reducing the communities of interest. ”
The group rated the Senate card proposed by the Democratic caucus with an “A” based on established benchmarks. Butler presented this card before the vote on Friday; however, he was on the verge of failing among the committee of 10 Republicans and five Democrats.
The Senate chamber currently consists of 34 Republicans and 22 Democrats. According to the groups analyzing the map, to have a representative map of the changing demographics of Georgia, the maps must show 32 or fewer Republican districts and 24 or more Democratic districts. The map approved by the committee, however, favors Republicans by creating 33 districts with a Republican tendency and 23 districts with a Democratic tendency.
“This state is also politically divided,” said Butler. “A card that provides either party with a significant party advantage discriminates and reduces the voting power of Georgians with different political views.”
Georgia House’s Legislative and Congressional Redistribution Committee began meeting Friday afternoon to discuss proposed maps of the House and Congressional districts.
All maps adopted by committees must be approved by both the House and the Senate.
The redistribution takes place every 10 years when the US Census data is released to reflect demographic and demographic changes. Georgia’s population has grown by more than a million, or 10%, since the last cycle of redistribution in 2011, with the white population shrinking slightly and minority populations increasing dramatically, especially in metropolitan areas across the state.