Congressional map boosting Republican control clears Georgia Senate

November 19, 2021 Atlanta - Sen. John Kennedy (R-Macon), center, is congratulated by John Albers (R-Roswell) after SB 2 EX, newly-drawn congressional maps, passed in the Senate Chambers during a special session at the Georgia State Capitol in Atlanta on Friday, November 19, 2021. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)
Caption
November 19, 2021 Atlanta - Sen. John Kennedy (R-Macon), center, is congratulated by John Albers (R-Roswell) after SB 2 EX, newly-drawn congressional maps, passed in the Senate Chambers during a special session at the Georgia State Capitol in Atlanta on Friday, November 19, 2021. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Georgia Republicans are one step closer to solidifying their continued control over the state’s congressional delegation, passing a new map of district lines in the state Senate that could bolster their current advantage in Washington.

About 50 hours after the map was revealed to the public, the Senate passed the measure on a 32-21 party-line vote, with Republicans backing the new districts.

Senate Redistricting Committee Chairman John Kennedy, a Macon Republican, said the maps strive to keep communities of similar beliefs together.

“Georgia is such a beautiful state with great people and such diversity of different cultures, different communities of interest, different drivers of industry versus agriculture,” Kennedy said. “We all enjoy being Georgians, but there are a lot of different communities of interest and we’ve done our best to recognize that in forming the 14 districts that we have to divide.”

The House will next take up the map, with a vote expected Monday that would send it to Gov. Brian Kemp for his signature. Lawsuits asking the courts to invalidate the maps will likely soon follow.

The GOP-drawn map could increase Republicans’ 8-6 majority in Georgia’s congressional delegation by stretching the 6th Congressional District in suburban Atlanta into more conservative areas to the north in Cherokee, Dawson and Forsyth counties.

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Long-awaited new proposed congressional map of Georgia released

Long-awaited new proposed congressional map of Georgia released
Caption
Long-awaited new proposed congressional map of Georgia released

In the past two election cycles, Democrats flipped the 6th and 7th congressional districts north of Atlanta. The map approved Friday turns the 6th District into one that is safely Republican and makes the 7th District — based in Gwinnett County — solidly Democratic.

Redistricting is required every 10 years to ensure that districts have the same populations following the U.S. census. Georgia’s population increased by 1 million over the past decade to a total of 10.7 million.

Democrats decried the passage of the congressional map, not only for the speed at which it made it through the chamber, but also for not reflecting the even split between the two political parties in Georgia.

Senate Democratic Caucus Chairwoman Elena Parent of Atlanta said all the population growth in the past 10 years in Georgia has been among people of color. Yet the GOP-drawn maps don’t increase the number of minority-majority districts.

“What did this partisan, rushed process deliver for Georgia?” Parent asked. “A map that fails to reflect the population changes we have seen in Georgia. It aims to give Republicans a 64% majority of a congressional delegation in a 50-50 state.”

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November 19, 2021 Atlanta - Sen. Elena Parent (D-Atlanta) speaks in opposition of SB 2 EX, newly-drawn congressional maps, in the Senate Chambers during a special session at the Georgia State Capitol in Atlanta on Friday, November 19, 2021. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

November 19, 2021 Atlanta - Sen. Elena Parent (D-Atlanta) speaks in opposition of SB 2 EX, newly-drawn congressional maps, in the Senate Chambers during a special session at the Georgia State Capitol in Atlanta on Friday, November 19, 2021. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)
Caption
November 19, 2021 Atlanta - Sen. Elena Parent (D-Atlanta) speaks in opposition of SB 2 EX, newly-drawn congressional maps, in the Senate Chambers during a special session at the Georgia State Capitol in Atlanta on Friday, November 19, 2021. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

The 2nd Congressional District in southwest Georgia, held by longtime Democratic U.S. Rep. Sanford Bishop, would become slightly more competitive. The proposal reduces the district’s Black population to 49%, down from its current 51%.

In another change, the conservative northwest Georgia district held by Republican U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene would extend into parts of Cobb County in metro Atlanta, including Austell and Powder Springs. Still, the 14th Congressional District would remain solidly Republican.

At hearings Wednesday and Thursday, speakers questioned the need to drastically change the “core” of the 6th District, which three years ago was flipped by Democrat Lucy McBath.

State Sen. Michelle Au, a Johns Creek Democrat, said census numbers showed McBath’s district as currently drawn needed to decrease by about 660 residents to meet the 765,136 residents that are required for each district.

Caption
November 19, 2021 Atlanta - Chuck Payne (R-Dalton), foreground, looks at a map as Nikki Merritt (D-Grayson), background, speaks in opposition of SB 2 EX, newly-drawn congressional maps, in the Senate Chambers during a special session at the Georgia State Capitol in Atlanta on Friday, November 19, 2021. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

November 19, 2021 Atlanta - Chuck Payne (R-Dalton), foreground, looks at a map as Nikki Merritt (D-Grayson), background, speaks in opposition of SB 2 EX, newly-drawn congressional maps, in the Senate Chambers during a special session at the Georgia State Capitol in Atlanta on Friday, November 19, 2021. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)
Caption
November 19, 2021 Atlanta - Chuck Payne (R-Dalton), foreground, looks at a map as Nikki Merritt (D-Grayson), background, speaks in opposition of SB 2 EX, newly-drawn congressional maps, in the Senate Chambers during a special session at the Georgia State Capitol in Atlanta on Friday, November 19, 2021. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

However, instead of moving voters to another district, the Republican-drawn map shifts about 355,000 residents from Democratic-leaning DeKalb and Fulton counties out of the district and brings in about the same number of voters from Republican-leaning Cherokee, Dawson and Forsyth counties.

“It’s really difficult to justify this wholesale transfusion of voters from the Georgia 6th,” Au said.

Several Democrats noted that both Au, a first-term senator who is Chinese American, and McBath, who is Black, were targeted.

Kennedy said it was “absolutely not true” that the Republican maps targeted women of color.

“We didn’t target anyone. And I think it’s really disingenuous when you look at the arguments that were made,” Kennedy said. “(Democrats said) that these seats don’t belong to us — and they don’t, they belong to the people. But at the same time, the criticism is, ‘Wow, why didn’t you protect certain people?’ You can’t make both of those arguments.”

Republican senators last week passed maps that redrew Au’s district from a Johns Creek area that supported Democrat Joe Biden with 59% of the vote in last year’s presidential race and moved it north into Forsyth County, creating a district where 52% of voters backed Republican Donald Trump.

“Republican attacks on women have never been subtle, and now we have women of color represent the future of this state who have actually won higher office in competitive races,” said state Sen. Jen Jordan, an Atlanta Democrat. “This is about putting women in their place. You know what? To that I say that the place where women belong is in the House, in the Senate, in Congress and, yes, even in the Governor’s Mansion.”

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