Senate panel OKs congressional map for Georgia

The Georgia Legislature is expected to wrap up its special session Wednesday and head home until January, but the topic of redistricting is far from over.

The General Assembly has been in session since Aug. 15 to draw and approve new district lines for the state House and Senate, U.S. House, and local governments. The final vote, to approve new congressional districts, is expected in the Senate.

The Senate redistricting committee approved the proposed congressional map Tuesday, rebuffing an attempt by Democrats to make changes. If it passes the Senate on Wednesday, having already passed the House, it would be sent to Gov. Nathan Deal for his signature. Deal has already signed new state legislative maps into law.

The new congressional map includes 14 congressional districts, an increase of one to reflect the state's increased population in the 2010 census. As drawn by the Legislature's Republican majority, the new map is likely to boost the state GOP's margin in Congress to 10-4, up from the current 8-5 advantage.

Once the governor signs the congressional map, the state will submit all its new boundaries to the Justice Department for review. Georgia is one of nine states subject to the Voting Rights Act, which requires the Justice Department, or federal courts, to review all changes to voting and election laws in those states because each has a history of discrimination that hindered minority voting.

Democrats have already indicated they plan to challenge the GOP-drawn maps as unfair and violating the Voting Rights Act.

It took nearly two years before the redistricting that followed the 2000 census was settled in a federal court.