Georgia is one of several states that must have any change in voting or election law precleared by either the DOJ or federal court before it can be implemented. Republicans here, who control the governor’s office, General Assembly and attorney general’s office, were wary of a Democratic-controlled Justice Department and simultaneously submitted the new maps for review by the DOJ and the federal court in Washington.
Redistricting, or redrawing the state’s legislative and congressional districts, happens at least once every 10 years after the release of data from the U.S. Census Bureau. It is hugely important to elected officials because a minor change in district lines has the potential to sway an election.
It is equally important to voters because it can increase or decrease their community’s influence, depending how the lines are drawn.
The new maps approved by state lawmakers in August increases to 14 the number of congressional districts in Georgia, reflecting the state’s population growth in the 2010 census. It also could boost the state GOP margin in the U.S. House to 10-4, up from the current 8-5 advantage.
New maps approved for the state’s 180 House districts and 56 Senate districts show that Republicans could achieve two-thirds majorities in both chambers in November 2012 — enough to pass constitutional amendments without Democratic interference.
It is a push in reverse from what happened 10 years ago, when the state last dealt with redistricting.
After the 2000 Census, Democrats controlled the state House, Senate and governor’s office. Democratic Gov. Roy Barnes and Democratic Attorney General Thurbert Baker went straight to the federal court to get their maps approved, bypassing the U.S. Justice Department under Republican President George W. Bush.
It took nearly two years before that redistricting process for Georgia was settled in a federal court.