Redistricting is required every 10 years to ensure that each legislative district has the same population after the most recent census. Georgia has gained about 1 million people since 2010, primarily in areas surrounding cities, while rural counties shrank.
Redistricting allows the majority party to move voters around and create political boundaries that help it maintain control while the minority party tries to hold onto the seats it has, knowing it lacks the votes in the General Assembly to do so.
Over the session, legislators will introduce bills that outline new district boundaries, consider them in committees, hold votes and send them to Kemp for approval.
The U.S. Supreme Court has permitted the majority to use redistricting to gain a partisan advantage.
Georgia Republicans are expected to create districts that group together enough conservative-leaning communities to build on their majorities.
That includes targeting one or both of the Democratic incumbents who recently flipped GOP-controlled U.S. House seats: U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath captured a district spanning Atlanta’s northern suburbs in 2018, and U.S. Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux won a Gwinnett County-based seat last year.
Though Georgia voters were nearly evenly split between Republicans and Democrats in last year’s presidential election, the GOP will attempt to build on its leads across congressional and legislative districts.
Republicans hold eight of Georgia’s 14 seats in the U.S. House, a 57% majority in the 180-seat state House and a 61% advantage in the 56-seat state Senate. The new maps will be used by voters across the state in next year’s elections.
The governor has faced demands to expand the scope of the special session beyond redistricting.
From his right flank, pro-Donald Trump legislators repeating false claims of rampant election fraud want him to add more voting-related legislation or a review of the 2020 results to the docket. Trump added to that call in a radio interview Thursday.
“He doesn’t want to do it,” Trump told host John Fredericks, referring to Kemp. “It’s almost like he’s a Democrat in disguise.”
State election officials have said there’s no indication of fraud after three ballot counts and multiple investigations and court challenges.
Democrats, meanwhile, urged the governor to include Medicaid expansion so more Georgians have health coverage. Kemp has long opposed such a move, saying it would be too costly in the long run.
In a surprise, Kemp did not ask lawmakers to debate new penalties to fight crime during the special session. The governor previously said he would issue such a call, citing a historically deadly 2020 crime rate in Atlanta, along with an uptick in violence in more rural areas.
But his office said Thursday that he’ll ask lawmakers to debate a package of Kemp’s proposals during the General Assembly’s regularly scheduled annual session in January.
He also asked lawmakers to pass a new measure allowing him to suspend collection of fuel taxes and align state tax laws to match federal tax changes. And the proclamation is crafted in a way that allows certain local legislation, though it’s unclear if it leaves the door open to a potential vote on Buckhead cityhood.