Lawmakers revive bill to prevent counties from changing electoral maps

Language from a failed bill that would have banned county officials from changing their own district lines has been tacked onto House Bill 204, which originally created an association of city clerks.

Sen. Ed Setzler’s Senate Bill 124, which failed to pass by a key legislative deadline, was in response to Cobb County commissioners changing their redistricting map — an unprecedented move meant to keep Commissioner Jerica Richardson in her seat after being drawn out mid-term by Republican legislators. The commission’s action has since been challenged in court.

Setzler has said his bill is an effort to “clarify the constitution.”

Adding language to a different bill is a maneuver lawmakers can perform with bills that address the same code section.

“We owe clarity to Georgians,” Setzler said. “When the General Assembly enacts a local reapportionment framework, it’s over. It’s settled.”

Last year, the commission’s Democratic majority made the unprecedented move to amend its own district map to keep Richardson within her district. The home rule provision of the state constitution does allow counties to amend or repeal local laws, but it has never been interpreted to include redistricting.

Setzler has said home rule does not give counties the authority to change their own maps, which he hopes to make explicit in Georgia code.

But county officials have stood behind the move, which has since been challenged in a lawsuit currently pending in Cobb County Superior Court.