DeKalb city changes district map, voting method for 1st time in 50 years

This is the new district map for Doraville.

Credit: City of Doraville

Credit: City of Doraville

This is the new district map for Doraville.

Local elections are going to change in one DeKalb County city.

Doraville’s city leaders voted Wednesday to change the city’s district map for the first time since 1972, which also changes how residents will vote for their councilmembers.

The city, which spans roughly four square miles, will shrink from three districts to two, but it will retain a total of six members on council in addition to the mayor. A Councilmember in each district will be elected only by residents who live in their district, while the other four will be elected at-large.

The redistricting effort was forced by the city’s 2020 Census count, which found parts of the north DeKalb city had greater population growth over the past decade. The uneven growth is mostly due to annexations, which led to the city’s population increasing by 27% since 2010.

It’s not an uncommon process. Brookhaven changed its district lines last year due to its own annexations, and Chamblee is starting its own redistricting process.

Last night the City of Doraville City Council approved two measures that will affect elections in our city for at least...

Posted by Doraville Mayor Joseph Geierman on Thursday, January 20, 2022

One district is primarily northwest of Buford Highway, a corridor known as a hub for immigrants with a diverse food scene. The other district will be mostly located southeast of Buford Highway. The two districts have to evenly split the city’s population of 10,623 residents.

To make the city’s two-district system work, Councilwoman Rebekah Cohen Morris announced she would not run for reelection in 2023 so her seat can move districts. Otherwise, there would be four council seats in one half of the city.

“I won’t run for the next election in 2023,” Cohen-Morris said during Wednesday’s City Council meeting. “If I’m like, ‘Oh my gosh, I miss it so much,’ you can always have me back in 2025 if voters will have me.”

The council voted quickly and unanimously to approve the two-district map. What took longer to iron out was whether the city should keep its current system where all elected officials are chosen at-large.

It took the council three attempts, but they eventually unanimously voted on four at-large seats and two in-district seats. In 2023 when Cohen-Morris’ term ends, her successor will be elected by all residents of Doraville for a two-year term. Starting in 2025, that seat and the seat currently held by Chris Henshaw will be elected only by residents in their respective districts to standard four-year terms.