‘Anti-democratic’: Cobb Democrats cry foul as GOP pushes overhaul of county commission map

State Rep. Eric Allen, D-Smyrna, held a press conference Wednesday, Feb. 3, to talk about redistricting at the Georgia State Capitol.

Credit: Brian Eason/AJC

Credit: Brian Eason/AJC

State Rep. Eric Allen, D-Smyrna, held a press conference Wednesday, Feb. 3, to talk about redistricting at the Georgia State Capitol.

Cobb County Republicans are pushing dramatic changes to the county’s commission map that would draw a newly elected Democrat out of her seat, while shoring up another district that an incumbent Republican only narrowly held on to in 2018.

The proposal, sponsored by state Rep. John Carson, a Republican who represents northeast Cobb, seeks to bypass the General Assembly’s normal redistricting process, which is traditionally led by the local legislative delegation and rubber-stamped by the full legislature.

Democrats have a one-seat advantage on the delegation, as well as the county commission itself. But GOP lawmakers have been targeting Democratic-led areas across the state in the once-a-decade redistricting process, seeking new maps that could shift future local elections in their favor.

At a Wednesday news conference, state Rep. Erick Allen, a Smyrna Democrat who chairs the local delegation, called the proposal “shameful” and “anti-democratic,” complaining that Republicans only preach local control as long as they have a majority.

Another Cobb Democrat, state Rep. David Wilkerson from Powder Springs, put it more bluntly: “This is an attack on people of color.”

Cobb County in 2020 elected three Democrats – all black women – to lead the board, flipping the balance of power in the long-time Republican stronghold. The Republican map would draw one of those women, District 2 Commissioner Jerica Richardson, out of her seat, meaning she would have to move to run again for the same post.

Rep. Ed Setzler, a Republican from northwest Cobb, defended the map, insisting it was “fair and reasonable.” The third district, held by Republican Commissioner Joann Birrell, would shift to cover more of East Cobb, while the new District 2 would follow the I-75 corridor.

The delegation met last week to discuss whether a compromise could be struck that would earn bipartisan support and avoid a political fight. Only one Republican lawmaker, Sen. Kay Kirkpatrick from East Cobb, showed up.

The delegation map, which Allen said he expects to introduce this week, makes minimal changes to the current districts, which converge in the geographic center of the county. Cobb commissioners endorsed the map last month on a party-line vote.

While the General Assembly by law controls the map-drawing process, the Republican-led legislature doesn’t have the final say. During the last redistricting process 10 years ago, a judge threw out the legislature’s proposed map, and put a court-approved map in place instead. Republican lawmakers in 2014 replaced that map with the current districts.