ATLANTA – The new Georgia House and Senate constituency maps are progressing well despite much debate and opposition to the Republican-led proposals.
On the fifth day of the special session of the General Assembly Tuesday, the House Law and Congress Redistribution Committee approved a new recommended House district map and a proposed Senate district map moved forward in the process. bedroom.
Representative Philip Singleton, R-Sharpsburg, said he was unhappy with the Republican-led House committee card, saying it did not protect what he called “communities of interest” and put his seat in danger.
“My proposal preserves majority communities and communities of interest and would preserve me and Representative (Mandisha) Thomas from Fulton County because it would contain more of our current ridings according to your rules,” said Singleton, whose district represents most of Coweta County, at the House committee’s public hearing on Monday.
Coweta resident Jan Horne, who identified himself as a Republican, said the Democratic caucus presented a better card and was unhappy with the Republican-dominated committee.
“South Coweta is already being incorporated into Project (District) 134,” Bryant Frost, another Coweta resident, said on Monday. “There is no population-based argument as to why we would need North Coweta, one-fifth of our county, to be placed in South Fulton (county).”
Other comments expressed during the public hearing on Monday indicated that Singleton was being targeted because of his opposition to certain Republican leaders.
As of Tuesday afternoon, the committee presented an alternate map, but no changes were made for the Coweta County redistribution, which was the subject of public comment on Monday.
“I was very sympathetic to the people of Coweta County yesterday, but we have a job and that is to draw a map that conforms to the law and that is what we did,” said Bonnie Rich, R-Suwannee , Chair of the House Committee. “After obeying the law, there is not a single predominant problem; it’s a balancing factor. “
Criteria for Georgia’s House districts include a fairly even population, contiguous boundaries, avoiding unnecessary twinning of incumbents and compliance with voting rights law.
According to population-based redistribution guidelines, each of the state’s 56 Senate districts is expected to include approximately 191,294 residents; Georgia’s 180 districts are expected to have a population of approximately 59,000, and the state’s congressional districts are expected to have a population of 755,136.
Rich said the committee’s map included suggestions from the Democratic caucus and that some of the changes made to the map from Monday to Tuesday included changing some district boundaries in and around Fulton County, with the majority of the changes bringing back the incumbents. in their respective districts.
“We were very grateful that the Democratic caucus put together a map and we took some of the components into consideration, and I think you’ll probably see that in some areas of the map there are similarities and there are dots on. which we agree, ”said Rich.
The Democratic caucus map and the map approved by the committee on Tuesday received a “B” rating from the Princeton Gerrymandering Project, which has partnered with Fair Districts GA to compile at least 100 fair maps and assess the maps generated by lawmakers.
“The committee map now divides 62% of cities that could fit in a single House District, a reduction from 63%,” said Karen McCown, representative of Fair Districts, adding that the committee’s new map was less competitive but more secure for the incumbents.
Before the vote, she encouraged the committee to adjust the partisan balance, although it is within the reference ranges of the Princeton charts.
“But that’s at the end of all of them,” McCown said. “To be more balanced with a partisan balance, (the maps should be) near the midpoint of 95 Republican-leaning districts and 85 Democratic-leaning districts.”
The current membership of Georgia House is 103 Republicans and 77 Democrats.
The redistribution process occurs every 10 years when new demographic data from the US Census is released. Georgia Census 2020 data shows statewide growth of 1 million people – or 10% – since 2010; all of the growth has come from minority populations, with more than half of that growth in metropolitan areas of the state.
Georgia’s Republican senators were accused of dividing minority populations in his proposed district map before voting on Tuesday.
Democrats spent more than two hours opposing the proposal they felt was rushed and shattered many majority minority areas and communities of interest.
“The displacement (over 24,000) of black residents of the 17th arrondissement does not completely destroy this community of interest,” Democratic Senator Emanuel Jones of Decatur said, referring to a project for a Henry County district in the region. Metro Atlanta. “To open them up and divide them into two districts and add one of the new districts to Henry County is wrong and I think it is a violation of the VRA. “
The proposal was approved by the Senate redistribution committee on Friday, less than three days after it was made public for consideration. The vote to approve it on Tuesday was 34-21, according to party lines.
Republicans who argued against Democratic opposition on Tuesday referred to the 2001 redistribution process in which Democrats had a majority and whose cards were later ruled unconstitutional by federal judges due to gerrymandering.
Republican Senator John Kennedy, who chaired the Senate Redistribution Committee, also referred to the speed of the Democrats in 2001 in approving a redistribution card outside the committee – on the third day of the session, just like the Kennedy committee on Friday. .
All new district cards must be approved by both chambers. No votes were taken on any of the state’s proposed new congressional districts.