Back to drawing board for Atlanta City Council redistricting

Atlanta's plan to draw new maps for City Council districts was sent back to the drawing board this week as council members wrestled with how to protect minority representation.

The redistricting is required by a U.S. Census and necessary because of Atlanta's rapidly changing neighborhoods.

The original plan was to approve a final map this week, but council members protested additions or subtractions to their districts and questioned whether Map 2, tentatively approved by a 10-5 vote two weeks ago, could pass muster at the U.S. Department of Justice.

That map would have reduced the African-American presence in District 5 in eastern Atlanta by about 8 percentage points, to 42.5 percent. It also would have reduced the African-American portion of District 3 in central Atlanta by about 5 percentage points, to roughly 55 percent.

The map was "not representative of the city of Atlanta -- period, point blank, end of story," Councilwoman Felicia Moore said Monday. "The reality is, Map 2 needs to go away, no matter what we do."

A new compromise plan, called Map 5, will be the subject of public hearings, including one at 6 p.m. Monday at City Hall, before the council settles on a final choice.

The map then will be submitted to the Justice Department for review. The federal agency generally seeks to protect "communities of interest" from being split up, and also watches for dilution of minority voting power.

"I think everybody had to make some adjustments," said Moore, whose district in west Atlanta lost thousands of residents in the past decade. "If everybody had their druthers, the districts wouldn't change at all. But the districts don't belong to us. They belong to the people."

Former council member Anne Fauver took issue with the new map. She said the latest plan does not adhere to the principle of "one man, one vote" -- the idea that each voter's voting power should be equivalent to any others'.

She noted that Districts 7 and 8 in north Atlanta and District 2 around Midtown have thousands more voters than other districts. Those districts are majority white.

Much of the recent debate has centered on how to apportion council districts in Midtown and central and east Atlanta. The maps also need to account for the growth of the population in Buckhead and elsewhere in north Atlanta, but that attracted less controversy.

“I’m glad that my colleagues and I all came together and reached a compromise,” said District 2 Councilman Kwanza Hall. “It’s not perfect. Some of us gave up a lot more than others, but all of us had to give something. This is something that came out the door that everyone could support.”