Cobb commissioners endorse proposed election map in party-line vote

In this file photo, voters wear masks and cast their ballots at least six feet apart the first day of early voting at the Cobb County Board of Elections' Registration on Monday afternoon, May 18, 2020, in Marietta, Ga. (Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution/TNS)

Credit: TNS

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In this file photo, voters wear masks and cast their ballots at least six feet apart the first day of early voting at the Cobb County Board of Elections' Registration on Monday afternoon, May 18, 2020, in Marietta, Ga. (Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution/TNS)

Credit: TNS

A divided Cobb Board of Commissioners on Tuesday night endorsed an election map that looks a lot like the one that’s already in place.

But the 3-2 vote — along party lines — may foreshadow a more consequential political fight to come.

The Republican-controlled General Assembly has final say over local election maps, a process known as redistricting, and Cobb County Democrats are bracing for a counter-proposal to emerge at the statehouse that could threaten their recent political gains.

The map, proposed by state Rep. Erick Allen, a Democrat from Vinings, will be considered Wednesday by the full Cobb legislative delegation, setting the stage for a bill to be introduced to the legislature.

While the board’s approval wasn’t needed, Chairwoman Lisa Cupid, a Democrat, urged the board to endorse it nonetheless, saying that not doing so risked the legislature putting forward a map that makes wholesale changes to the district lines. The Allen map, by contrast, hews closely to the existing boundaries, with districts in northwest, northeast, southeast and southwest Cobb all converging just south of Marietta, near the geographic center of the county.

“I think it leaves the county extremely vulnerable to not vote for something that represents our interests,” Cupid said.

Republican lawmakers may put forth a counter-proposal, regardless; Jimmy Gisi, the deputy county manager, on Monday told the board he expected a competing map to surface in the coming days.

While Democrats described the changes as minor, Cobb Republicans said it could have a major impact on future elections. Commissioner JoAnn Birrell, an East Cobb Republican, won her 2018 election by just 3% of the overall vote. Birrell told the AJC she objected to her district gaining areas south of Dobbins Air Reserve Base, while losing some of East Cobb, a traditionally conservative area.

The four commission districts have to be redrawn after the U.S. Census every 10 years to ensure roughly equal representation — about 191,000 residents per seat. The chair is elected county-wide, while the four districts today are split evenly between Republican and Democrats.

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