Lawmakers look to void Cobb County’s move to amend its district map

The board’s 3-2 Democratic majority has been operating in an uneasy legal limbo, under disputed district lines that took effect Jan. 1.
Sen. Ed Setzler (R-Acworth) speaks during a press conference about the Georgia Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) on Tuesday, February 14, 2023. (Natrice Miller/

Credit: Natrice Miller/AJC

Credit: Natrice Miller/AJC

Sen. Ed Setzler (R-Acworth) speaks during a press conference about the Georgia Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) on Tuesday, February 14, 2023. (Natrice Miller/

A new bill at the Georgia General Assembly seeks to nullify the Cobb Board of Commissioners’ unprecedented move last year to amend their own electoral map — the latest maneuver in the ongoing partisan battle between the county and the state.

The bill’s sponsor, State Sen. Ed Setzler (R-Acworth), has said the county lacks the authority to overrule the Legislature on redistricting. But absent a court ruling on the matter, the board’s 3-2 Democratic majority has been stuck in an uneasy legal limbo.

Senate Bill 236 would reinstate Cobb County’s district lines as passed by the Legislature last year. That election map, drawn by GOP state lawmakers, strengthened the Republican stronghold in District 3 and drew Democratic Commissioner Jerica Richardson out of her district halfway through her term. The county charter dictates that commissioners must live in the districts they represent, leaving her position on the board disputed.

Setzler did not respond to requests for comment.

To prevent Richardson from being disqualified from office, the Cobb Commission’s Democratic majority amended the map using its home rule powers and replaced it with district lines drawn by Democratic state lawmakers.

SB 236 would repeal the county’s amendment entirely. The language seems to allow Richardson to continue to serve to the end of her term, said Erick Allen, the chair of the Cobb Democrats. However, that contradicts the county charter’s qualifying rules, so it is not clear if she could remain in office.

Richardson issued a statement against the bill, which she called a “slippery slope to chaos.”

“This proposed measure will result in, by statute, my seat becoming immediately vacant,” she said. “I do hope my colleagues will find it beneficial to listen to the community that elected me and not trigger a constitutional crisis that sets a precedent, eating away at local control.”

District Two Commissioner Jerica Richardson is seen at a Cobb County Board of Commissioners meeting in Marietta on Tuesday, September 27, 2022.   (Arvin Temkar /


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The home rule provision of the Georgia Constitution gives counties the authority to amend local legislation with some exceptions, but it has never been interpreted to include redistricting powers. State officials have decried the unprecedented move as unconstitutional, but County Attorney Bill Rowling has said he is ready to argue in court that it is.

Cobb resident Larry Savage has said he plans to refile a lawsuit challenging the move after initially withdrawing it. Until a judge rules on the case, Rowling said the county will continue to operate under its amended map.

The board’s two Republican commissioners protested the county’s map at the start of the year, bringing the conflict to a head. Like Setzler, they argue the county does not have the authority to change its map.

Setzler also introduced Senate Bill 124 to explicitly prohibit all counties from changing their district lines, but it would not apply retroactively if approved.

Allen, a former state representative, said even if the bills pass, neither would change the state constitution, which governs home rule powers. As a result, the issue could still end up in the court system.

“You still haven’t proved that they can’t do that via home rule,” Allen said. “You can’t try to interpret the constitution through law. That’s what the courts do.”

Cobb Chairwoman Lisa Cupid and Rowling, the county attorney, declined to comment.

“The county is aware of this piece of legislation, and our county attorney’s office is reviewing it,” county spokesman Ross Cavitt said.