Lawmakers file bill to prevent counties from changing electoral maps

Credit: Miguel Martinez for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Miguel Martinez for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

In an apparent rebuke of the Cobb Commission’s controversial move last year to amend its own electoral map, lawmakers introduced a bill this week explicitly prohibiting counties from doing so.

Cobb commissioners voted along party lines last year to amend the state-passed redistricting map that drew Democratic Commissioner Jerica Richardson out of her district with two years left in her term. It was an unprecedented move that the county administration claims is justified under the state’s Home Rule statute.

State Sen. Ed Setzler (R-Acworth) is the lead sponsor of the bill. Setzler, who could not be immediately reached Thursday, has openly condemned the county’s move as illegal and has urged the county’s elections board to ignore the map passed by the county commission to avoid contentious litigation.

“No county governing authority shall alter, amend, reapportion, redistrict, or revise the election districts from which its members are elected,” the bill says.

County Attorney Bill Rowling said in a statement that the county “is aware of the bill and will review it.” County spokesman Ross Cavitt said the bill does not change the county’s position.

Whether home rule actually gives the county authority to revise its map has been debated and questioned by lawmakers and legal experts. A legal challenge to the move was filed and withdrawn by longtime resident Larry Savage, who has said he will refile the lawsuit soon.

The Attorney General’s office, the Office of Legislative Counsel and the Secretary of State’s office have all issued unofficial opinions arguing Cobb does not have the authority to amend the map. But absent a court ruling, Rowling has previously said that the board can operate under its amended map until a judge rules otherwise.

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