Cobb school board’s majority Republicans prevail on district maps

Credit: Photo provided

Credit: Photo provided

The Cobb County School Board voted 4-3 Thursday along party lines to recommend district maps favored by the majority Republicans.

The maps put two incumbents — Democrats Jaha Howard and Charisse Davis — in the same district. Howard has filed paperwork to run for state school superintendent next year.

“I believe this map that you’re presenting today is very disruptive,” Davis told board chair Randy Scamihorn during the meeting. “It is, in fact, not a fair map.”

Any changes to voting districts need approval by the Legislature, a task taken up each decade with new census data.

“This is a recommendation, but things could happen between now and the final approval,” said board member David Chastain, a Republican.

Cobb’s four Republican school board members voted in August to hire Taylor English and Duma LLP to redraw its seven districts or posts.

The board’s three Democrats opposed the hiring, in part, because Republican Earl Ehrhart, a former member of the Georgia House of Representatives, is the chief executive of subsidiary Taylor English Decisions. One of the attorneys with the firm noted on Thursday night that Taylor English Decisions, its lobbying division, is not involved with redistricting issues.

The proposed new map, along with two others, was not unveiled until Wednesday night, which drew criticism from the public at Thursday’s meeting. Several speakers criticized the board for a lack of transparency in the process and for pushing political agendas.

Scamihorn said his goal was to make it as fair as possible while adjusting for population growth and demographic changes. He said his geographic area shrinks under the new map.

Board members Davis and Leroy “Tre’” Hutchins, also a Democrat, worked on alternative maps. But they withdrew them from consideration because they said the public wasn’t given enough time to inspect them.

Cobb County had more than 766,000 residents last year, according to the 2020 census, an 11% increase over 2010. Population changes over the last decade meant that some districts in the current map stayed nearly the same, while others had larger shifts. Post 5, represented by Republican David Banks, saw a 3.6% drop in population. Post 6, represented by Davis, saw a 4% increase.

The newly proposed map maintained more equal population distributions, but Davis said that her district would include fewer high schools.

Credit: Photo provided

Credit: Photo provided