DeKalb CEO says local redistricting delays are ‘inviting chaos’

State Sen. Emanuel Jones says compromise in the works

DeKalb CEO Michael Thurmond did not offer support Tuesday for either of the competing redistricting proposals put forth by state legislators from his county — but he urged them to come to an agreement.


“You are inviting chaos,” Thurmond said during a joint meeting with DeKalb’s House and Senate delegations.

The CEO referenced recent events in increasingly Democratic Cobb and Gwinnett counties, where Republicans have effectively taken control of county-level redistricting away from local legislators and placed it in the hands of the larger, GOP-led General Assembly.

Thurmond said the longer DeKalb’s legislators wait to approve their own county commission maps, the greater the odds of outside interference. He added that as one of Georgia’s most Democratic communities, DeKalb having its maps redrawn by Republicans would be “an embarrassment that would never go away.”

Despite recent tensions, DeKalb legislators may already be taking steps to avoid such a predicament.

State Sen. Emanuel Jones, D-Stone Mountain, has put forth a controversial bill that would transform DeKalb’s two “super” commission districts — each of which covers about half of the county — into smaller, more traditional districts. It would then redraw other existing lines to create a map with a total of seven “regular” districts.

Because of DeKalb’s unique county charter, such a change would require a public referendum.

Jones said Tuesday he’s still pushing to hold such a vote this November, but he’s willing to push the effective date of any changes to the 2024 election cycle.

That would eliminate any confusion as candidate qualifying for this year’s election cycle begins next month, Jones said. In exchange, the Senate delegation could then approve separate redistricting maps put forth by their counterparts in the House.

The House delegation’s maps follow suggestions submitted by the DeKalb Board of Commissioners itself and make few substantive changes to existing district lines.

The arrangement would avoid the potential drama Thurmond warned about by getting the House maps on the books — and still give Jones the referendum he wants.