Cobb board gives final approval to change its electoral map

Commissioners expect the move will lead to a court challenge, setting up a legal battle with the state.

Credit: Arvin Temkar/AJC

Credit: Arvin Temkar/AJC

In the second and final vote to invoke home rule, the Cobb County Board of Commissioners again voted along party lines Tuesday to change their own commission district map in rebuke of state lawmakers who drew Commissioner Jerica Richardson, a Democrat, out of her seat halfway through her term.

Some legal experts and officials doubt the move will be successful, but most are sure it will end up in court for a judge to interpret.

Cobb County Attorney Bill Rowling said in a statement that the home rule statute, which gives counties the authority to amend or repeal local acts passed by the state Legislature in certain circumstances, has never been used in the case of redistricting.

Community members came out in support of Richardson, with some asking the county to defend her against the state map which goes into effect Jan. 1 and would remove her from office two years early.

“History is watching us,” said Matt Stegall, one of the public speakers at Tuesday’s meeting. “I urge the county to do everything it can to be on the right side of history and support the dutifully elected commissioner.”

Others spoke against the move, questioning the legality and the commissioners’ motivations in pursuing this route.

“I ask where the integrity is,” said Salleigh Grubbs, the Cobb County Republican party chair. “What about doing what’s right for Cobb constituents?”

The two Republican commissioners on the board, JoAnn Birrell and Keli Gambrill, both voted in opposition. Birrell said she believes the county does not have the authority to change its own map.

“This should be taken up next year in the state Legislature. If we want to change the laws of the state then that’s where the laws are made,” she said. “Set your precedent there.”

Birrell is up for election in District 3, which was redrawn earlier this year to encompass more of East Cobb, making the district more of a Republican stronghold.