Proposed Georgia House map pairs incumbents, adds five Black districts

House map unveiled ahead of redistricting do-over
Rep. Bonnie Rich, R-Suwanee, speaks on behalf of a state House redistricting bill in the House chamber at the Georgia State Capitol in Atlanta in November 2021. New state House maps were released Tuesday, after a federal judge rejected the maps drawn in 2021, ruling that they illegally weakened Black voting strength. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Rep. Bonnie Rich, R-Suwanee, speaks on behalf of a state House redistricting bill in the House chamber at the Georgia State Capitol in Atlanta in November 2021. New state House maps were released Tuesday, after a federal judge rejected the maps drawn in 2021, ruling that they illegally weakened Black voting strength. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

A proposed Georgia House map released Tuesday drew five new majority-Black districts and forced several incumbents into head-to-head matchups in next year’s elections.

The maps, created by the Republican majority, arrived the day before legislators return to the Georgia Capitol for a special session in response to a federal judge’s ruling that the state’s political boundaries drawn in 2021 illegally weakened Black voting power.

Lawmakers were tasked by the judge with creating five new majority-Black House districts in the Atlanta and Macon areas. The proposed map increases the number of majority-Black districts from 49 to 54 in the 180-seat state House.

The judge also ordered the Legislature to create two new state Senate districts and a congressional district that would be majority-Black.

A few incumbent state representatives — most of them Democrats — could lose their jobs because they were placed in the same districts as their colleagues. But because Black voters overwhelmingly support Democrats, they could gain a handful of seats overall in the newly created districts.

The state House released this map of proposed district boundaries before their special session.

Credit: Special

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Credit: Special

Eight lawmakers were drawn into the same districts with colleagues from their own party under the proposed maps — six of them Democrats and two Republicans.

If the proposed maps are approved, Georgia would have two new majority-Black districts in Atlanta’s rapidly growing southern suburbs in Clayton and Henry counties; one in Douglas County west of Atlanta, one near Macon and another in the Milledgeville area.

Republicans currently have a 102-78 advantage in the state House, making it unlikely that the new districts will change the balance of power in the chamber.

State Reps. Teri Anulewicz and Doug Stoner, both Democrats from Smyrna, could be drawn into the same Cobb County district.

“I’m going to wait and see what ends up happening,” Anulewicz said. “These maps are the start of a conversation.”

Stoner previously served in the House for two years and the Senate for eight years before losing in his redrawn, more conservative Senate district in 2012. This is his first year back in the General Assembly.

“This being my fifth redistricting session in my many years of service at the Legislature, this is just the beginning of a process, not the end,” he said.

The only Republicans placed in the same districts are Reps. Beth Camp of Concord and David Knight of Griffin, who currently represent areas south of Atlanta including Lamar, Pike, Spalding and Upson counties.

“I’m saddened,” said Camp, who plans to vote for the map. “But the reality is we have to adhere to a judge’s court order that required districts be created between Macon and Atlanta, and unfortunately, I’m about midpoint between Macon and Atlanta.”

Knight said the map placed him with his “friend and trusted colleague.”

“No matter the future outcome of elections, I know the constituents of Spalding, Pike and Lamar will be well represented,” Knight said.

State Reps. Saira Draper and Becky Evans, both Democrats from Atlanta, were drawn into the same DeKalb County district in the proposed map. Draper declined to comment. Evans couldn’t immediately be reached.

The proposed map also drew state Reps. Gregg Kennard and Sam Park, both Democrats from Lawrenceville, into the same Gwinnett County district. Park declined to comment. Kennard couldn’t immediately be reached.

House Speaker Jon Burns said the redistricting proposal is fair, and he hopes it passes.

“This map meets the promise we made when this process began: It fully complies with the judge’s order while also following Georgia’s traditional redistricting principles,” said Burns, a Republican from Newington.

Debate on the map will begin during public hearings at the start of the redistricting session Wednesday afternoon.

New maps with additional majority-Black districts in the state Senate were released Monday. Proposed districts for Congress are expected to be released later.

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