Gwinnett invites public to share redistricting thoughts

Chairwoman Nicole Hendrickson speaks during a meeting in Lawrenceville, Georgia, on Tuesday, January 19, 2021. The Gwinnett Board of Commissioners met on Tuesday for a working session. (Rebecca Wright for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Rebecca Wright for the Atlanta J

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Chairwoman Nicole Hendrickson speaks during a meeting in Lawrenceville, Georgia, on Tuesday, January 19, 2021. The Gwinnett Board of Commissioners met on Tuesday for a working session. (Rebecca Wright for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Rebecca Wright for the Atlanta J

Gwinnett officials plan to gather public input and draft their own redistricted maps, even though GOP legislation introduced this week could spoil the county’s desires and change the structure of local government.

A bill pitched by state Sen. Clint Dixon and other Gwinnett Republicans would add five commission districts to the Board of Commissioners and neuter the voting power of the county chairperson. A separate bill would make the Board of Education members run in nonpartisan elections in new districts.

But commissioners, planning for months to draw up their own maps for the state Legislature to consider, will continue to come up with new lines for the county’s current four districts.

“I think we should march forward,” said County Commissioner Kirkland Carden on Friday. “At the end of this process, we will have a map that was created with community input, that was created with logic and data, and that was very transparent.”

Carden will host the first of several redistricting town hall meetings from 6:30-8 p.m. on Nov. 17 at the Duluth branch of the Gwinnett County Public Library. Booths will be set up for residents to learn about the redistricting process and share their thoughts on how districts should look.

“Information is key,” said Nicole Love Hendrickson, the county’s first Black chairwoman, in a news release. “... The decisions that will be made by the General Assembly in the coming months will determine our county’s future for the next decade.”

The GOP push comes after Democrats took control of the county — including every seat on the Board of Commissioners — last year for the first time in nearly three decades. Now, every member of the board in the state’s most diverse county is a person of color.

The overhaul, which would add five commission seats, would still favor Democrats with a 7-2 split. But it would create five majority-white districts in an overwhelmingly nonwhite county.

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A map of the proposed districts for the Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners if five new seats are added to the board. (Courtesy of Eli H. Spencer Heyman / elium2.com)

Credit: Eli H. Spencer Heyman

A map of the proposed districts for the Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners if five new seats are added to the board. (Courtesy of Eli H. Spencer Heyman / elium2.com)

Credit: Eli H. Spencer Heyman

Combined ShapeCaption
A map of the proposed districts for the Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners if five new seats are added to the board. (Courtesy of Eli H. Spencer Heyman / elium2.com)

Credit: Eli H. Spencer Heyman

Credit: Eli H. Spencer Heyman

Dixon did not inform the public about the legislation before he pitched it, nor did he consult with current officials or his Democratic colleagues about the changes.

The freshman legislator and floor leader for Gov. Brian Kemp says his bill would give Gwinnett residents better representation in the fast-growing county by allowing board members to drill down on local issues.

Hendrickson told the AJC on Thursday that the expansion would disenfranchise the voices of Gwinnett residents, cause inefficiencies in local government and place a financial burden on taxpayers.

Carden said he’s open to discussing an expansion, but there needs to be data and public input to support the number of new seats.

“They never got buy-in or consensus from anyone else,” Carden said. “It was three people in a room making decisions for (nearly) 1 million people. And that’s not how we do business in Gwinnett.

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A map of the proposed districts for the Gwinnett County Board of Education if SB 5EX becomes law. (Courtesy of Eli H. Spencer Heyman / www.elium2.com)

Credit: Eli H. Spencer Heyman

A map of the proposed districts for the Gwinnett County Board of Education if SB 5EX becomes law. (Courtesy of Eli H. Spencer Heyman / www.elium2.com)

Credit: Eli H. Spencer Heyman

Combined ShapeCaption
A map of the proposed districts for the Gwinnett County Board of Education if SB 5EX becomes law. (Courtesy of Eli H. Spencer Heyman / www.elium2.com)

Credit: Eli H. Spencer Heyman

Credit: Eli H. Spencer Heyman