The Jolt: Crucial residency deadline complicates redistricting

The Census Bureau has said it expects to release apportionment counts by the end of April, untabulated redistricting data by mid-August and finally full population and demographic data by the end of September — months after the typical delivery dates. (Dreamstime/TNS)
The Census Bureau has said it expects to release apportionment counts by the end of April, untabulated redistricting data by mid-August and finally full population and demographic data by the end of September — months after the typical delivery dates. (Dreamstime/TNS)

Credit: TNS

Credit: TNS

News and analysis from the politics team at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

When, exactly, is “the frost on the pumpkin?”

That’s the question candidates and lawmakers across the state are asking as they try to game out the timing of the looming special redistricting legislative session in the General Assembly this year.

The pumpkin riddle comes from a typically folksy comment by House Speaker David Ralston, who told GPB’s Bill Nigut in April that he expects the session to be pushed back by delayed Census numbers from August until late fall, or more specifically “when the frost is on the pumpkin.”

But frosty pumpkin season falls squarely around a crucial deadline for 2022 candidates-- November 8, exactly one year out from the general election and the last day a state legislative candidate can change his or her residency from one district to another. (Congressional candidates do not have the same residency requirement.)

This becomes crucially important in a redistricting year when lines are being redrawn and candidates sometimes move to find friendlier territory to run in after the maps are final. If, for example, a lawmaker is drawn out of their district after Nov. 8 this year, they won’t have time to reposition themselves in time for a run this cycle.

As of now, state officials do not expect expanded reapportionment data from the Census Bureau until September 30 at the soonest. That leaves precious little time for scheduling, conducting and completing the process that requires detailed legislative language, committee debate and approval and floor votes in both chambers before heading to the governor for his signature.

Republicans close to the process tell us it could finish just before November 8th. But it could also happen after the 8th, too. It’s a danger for Republicans and Democrats alike and, just like the weather, at this point it’s almost impossible to predict.

***

Three Republican members of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee sent written follow-up questions to Stacey Abrams after her April testimony about election restrictions. And just like her live testimony then, the Reublican’s pointed inquiries and Abrams vigorous responses to them offer a window into the battles that await during the 2022 campaign.

Two of the three senators -- Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Tom Cotton of Arkansas-- asked about what has fast become a popular attack line against Abrams in conservative media: Her revisions to a USA Today op-ed after digital publication in April.

Here’s a snippet of her lengthy response, released this week:

I am disappointed by the apparent fixation on one wilfully misinterpreted line from an op-ed updated at the publication’s request for a print edition-- and not the scourge of voter suppression across the country, including in the home states of several members of this Committee.

In his follow up question, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas asked Abrams about “ballot harvesting,” the process in which organizers collect completed ballots from voters and send them to county officials to be counted. Abrams offered a lengthy response that included this:

Fair Fight and Fair Fight Action will continue to support numerous organizations, including those that, as part of larger organizing efforts,may collect sealed ballots from voters in circumstances and states in which it is legal to do so.

***

As expected, Georgia’s state-level battle over voting and election laws has become a national one.

Speaking at the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa massacre that destroyed one of the nation’s most prosperous Black neighborhoods, President Joe Biden promised to “fight like heck” to blunt new state laws restricting voting access.

From the Washington Post’s report:

Biden announced that he was tapping Vice President Harris to marshal an effort against the increasing array of Republican-led state laws that restrict voting in various ways, a campaign Biden condemned as “un-American."

“This sacred right is under assault with incredible intensity like I've never seen," Biden said, adding that June should be a “month of action" on Capitol Hill and taking what appeared to be a shot at Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin III (W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.), suggesting they often side with Republicans.

The president has been under pressure to show more urgency in the face of a GOP push that includes efforts to overturn the last presidential election, former president Donald Trump's false assertion that he won, and Republican resistance to Democrats' voting rights proposals in Congress. Democrats in Texas over the weekend blocked a restrictive voting measure, at least temporarily, by walking out of the statehouse."

- The Washington Post

***

The Rev. James Woodall announced Tuesday that he’s resigning as leader of the Georgia NAACP. Though Woodall didn’t say what’s next, we understand he’s landed another high-profile post.

Woodall has been a constant presence at the state Capitol for multiple major legislative efforts recently, including the NAACP’s fight against Senate Bill 202, as well as the group’s push to pass a state-level hate crimes law and to repeal Georgia’s antiquated citizens’ arrest statute.

He also was among the finalists considered by Georgia Democrats for the nomination to succeed the late U.S. Rep. John Lewis shortly after he died.

In a statement on Twitter, Woodall said the group raised more than $2 million under his leadership, and that a large portion was “re-invested” in grassroots activity.

“The work was not always attractive, and we had some painful moments as well as some life-changing wins,” Woodall wrote. “But in the end, we did what we were called to do in this moment, and for that, I am forever grateful.”

***

The line of the day?

If House Speaker David Ralston has a least favorite lawmaker in his chamber, state Rep. David Clark might be at the top of the list.

Over the years, the Buford Republican has called for Ralston to resign, called him a corrupt crony and, most recently, clashed with him after he refused a coronavirus test.

But Ralston had the last word. After Clark announced he wouldn’t stand for another term in order to take a U.S. Army posting, Ralston spokesman Kaleb McMichen was asked for comment.

His response was as curt as they get:

“Who?”

***

A conservative small business advocacy organization has sued Major League Baseball over its decision to move the all-star game from Georgia.

The suit by Job Creators Network sets lofty goals: a reinstatement of the game in Metro Atlanta, $100 million in damages to businesses in Georgia and another $1 billion in punitive damages, the AJC’s Tim Tucker reports. The league itself, as well the MLB Players Association, Commissioner Rob Manfred and MLBPA executive director Tony Clark, are named as defendants.

The game, which is to be played in July, was moved to Denver in protest of Georgia’s new election law. “Major League Baseball fundamentally supports voting rights for all Americans and opposes restrictions to the ballot box,” Manfred said at the time.

The suit was filed in federal court in New York, where the league’s headquarters are located.

***

Democrats across the country are planning to use Georgia Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene as part of their attack lines against GOP opponents, according to The Hill. Democrats are hoping the strategy helps them defend seats during the 2022 midterms, where Republicans have a strong chance of regaining a majority. From The Hill:

“I think that she is providing a huge opportunity in the absence of Trump to be a sticking point and a foil for Democrats in campaigns," said Democratic pollster Molly Murphy. “All she stands for and represents is a walking depiction of where this Republican Party is going. And I think Democrats would be wise to invoke her and where she is trying to take that party."

- The Hill

***

Now that Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms has decided not to run for re-election, attention has turned to what kind of legacy the one-term mayor will leave behind.

The AJC’s Wilborn Nobles and J.D. Capelouto profiled Bottoms, with a focus on the role of her personal connections to the city, where grew up and is now raising her family.

And WABE’s Rose Scott conducted a wide-ranging interview with the mayor, her first since announcing her decision not to seek a second term.

Bottoms also talked to Scott about friction with the Atlanta City Council and the unfinished business she leaves behind.

***

We’ve got another name for your Atlanta City Council-District 1 race Bingo card -- Clarence Blalock, who joined the contest with a decade of experience working in mapping, zoning and planning roles for cities in and around the Metro area.

Blalock is running for the seat being vacated by longtime Councilwoman Carla Smith

***

The carvings on Stone Mountain are far from the only Confederate monuments under review in Georgia for major changes.

In Savannah, city officials are still working on the next steps for Confederate imagery in the city’s iconic Forsyth Park, a move complicated by a 2019 state law limiting what local leaders can do, the Savannah Morning News reports:

Three years have passed since Savannah City Council gave the green light to relocate the busts of Confederate officers Francis Stebbins Bartow and LaFayette McLaws that sit in the middle of Forsyth Park. Yet the bronze busts remain untouched.

The future of the busts will once again be in the public spotlight Thursday as the Savannah-Chatham County Historic Site and Monument Commission discusses additional recommendations from a task force first created to address the future of the monuments in 2017...

The legality of what the city can do when it comes to removing or relocating the busts has been muddied in recent years due to state law, which tightened restrictions in 2019. The law prevents the busts from being relocated to a cemetery, mausoleum or museum.

- Savannah Morning News

***

After Gov. Brian Kemp announced last week that school districts can no longer cite a state public health emergency for mask mandates in the future, Cobb County and Marietta City Schools announced Tuesday that masks will be optional for all students and teachers on their campuses starting June 7th. The Marietta Daily Journal has the details.

***

As always, Jolt readers are some of our favorite tipsters. Send your best scoop, gossip and insider info to patricia.murphy@ajc.com.

In Other News