Democrats objected to the redistricting plan, saying it had been quickly pushed through the legislative process with district lines that reduce their representation. Georgia is closely split between Democrats and Republicans in statewide elections, but the state House map continues to give the GOP an advantage.
“The people of Georgia deserve more than a magic show of smoke and mirrors,” said state Rep. Carolyn Hugley, a Democrat from Columbus. “Republicans have ignored the will of Georgia voters in drawing their Statehouse map proposal. It minimizes the political power of the people of Georgia and ignores the fact that Georgia is equally divided politically.”
The mapmaking process picks winners and losers, with some representatives drawn into districts that favor their opponents and others forced to face members of their own party.
For example, Republican state Rep. Philip Singleton’s new district would favor Democrats in next year’s elections because it will extend north of Coweta County into Fulton County. Singleton has been a staunch critic of Republican House Speaker David Ralston, and he’ll now face a difficult path to reelection.
A few representatives were drawn into the same districts as incumbents, meaning only one will remain after next year’s elections. Only one of those pairings forces a contest between a Republican and a Democrat, when Republican Rep. Gerald Greene of Cuthbert would face Democratic Rep. Winfred Dukes of Albany.
“If you allow your voice to be silenced, or you willingly submit your voice to a select few, you are complicit in the destruction of our republic,” said Singleton, a Republican who voted against the map. “I want everyone in this room to have an equal voice.”
Democrats said Georgia’s districts should have been crafted in a way that kept more communities unified under one representative and empowered people of color to represent them. Members of the House are about 67% white in a state where white people make up about half of the population.
“The people of Georgia deserve better. The people of Georgia demanded a fair and transparent redistricting process,” said Minority Leader James Beverly, a Democrat from Macon. “What they got instead was a rushed and secretive process.”
The House map introduces several opportunities for Democrats to make gains, primarily in newly formed districts in metro Atlanta, seats where there are no incumbents. There are two new districts in Cobb County, two in Gwinnett County, one in Fulton County and one in Rockdale County.
Each House district in the state will represent about 59,500 residents. The House map now advances to the state Senate for further consideration, a day after the Senate approved a map for its 56 districts.
“Not everybody’s going to be happy,” said Ralston, a Republican from Blue Ridge. “Not all the Republicans are going to be happy. And that’s the case with every piece of legislation that we pass, but we have done the best we can.”
After the General Assembly finishes redistricting itself, maps for Georgia’s 14 congressional districts will be introduced.
Republicans currently hold an 8-6 majority in Georgia’s U.S. House delegation, and the GOP is trying to regain a seat currently held by Democrat Lucy McBath, who represents parts of Cobb, DeKalb and Fulton counties. A proposal by state Senate leaders would move more conservative Forsyth County into her district, but the House hasn’t yet released its congressional plan.
— Staff writer Maya T. Prabhu contributed to this article.