Redrawn House districts shoring up GOP majority head to governor’s desk

Republican state Rep. Bonnie Rich of Suwanee, center, smiles as she and other lawmakers vote on the Georgia House map for redistricting. The Senate approved the map on Friday. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)
Caption
Republican state Rep. Bonnie Rich of Suwanee, center, smiles as she and other lawmakers vote on the Georgia House map for redistricting. The Senate approved the map on Friday. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

The Georgia General Assembly gave final approval to the state House’s redrawn district maps on Friday, sending them to Gov. Brian Kemp for his signature.

The Senate voted nearly along party lines, 32-21, to approve the maps drawn by House Republican leadership. Republican state Sen. Matt Brass of Newnan joined Democrats in voting against the maps.

Brass said he voted against the maps because of the way the House districts divide his constituents.

“We’ve got some folks up in north Coweta (County) that aren’t excited about what their map looks like, and we’ve seen it on display up here — they’ve come to committee meetings,” said Brass, who up until the beginning of this year served as chairman of the Senate Redistricting and Reapportionment Committee. “I want y’all to know that they’re loud, sometimes obnoxious (and) crazy. But I want y’all to know that they’re my crazies. We’re bound together.”

Some Coweta County residents have expressed concern because the district of their current House representative, Republican state Rep. Philip Singleton, would favor Democrats in next year’s elections because it will extend north into Fulton County. Singleton was one of two Republicans who joined House Democrats to vote against the measure, which passed that chamber 99-79.

Redistricting is required every decade to ensure districts have equal populations. Georgia has added 1 million residents since 2010, most of them living in metro areas. As a result, cities and suburban areas that lean Democratic will gain representation, while rural areas that tend to support Republicans will lose a few seats.

Under the map approved Friday, the House’s Republican majority could lose six seats after next year’s elections. The map creates 97 districts that lean Republican and 83 that trend toward Democrats, according to an analysis by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. There are currently 103 Republicans and 77 Democrats in the House.

Democrats objected to the redistricting plan, saying it had been quickly pushed through the legislative process with district lines that don’t reflect their party’s strength in the state. Georgia has been closely split between Democrats and Republicans in recent statewide elections, but the state House map continues to give the GOP an advantage.

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 the population.

State Sen. Elena Parent, an Atlanta Democrat, said she disagreed with the drawing of maps that split Decatur into four House districts in what she called an unnecessarily rushed process.

“We don’t want to take the time and we don’t want to listen,” said Parent, who represents Decatur. “And that does a big disservice to the citizens of Georgia.”

But Senate Redistricting and Reapportionment Chairman John Kennedy, a Macon Republican, said the process of approving maps has lasted much longer than it did in 2001 when Democrats last controlled the redistricting process.

“The process that we have engaged in and that the House Republicans have engaged in has been completely fair and completely transparent,” he said.

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. Each House district in the state will represent about 59,500 residents.

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.

The House will next consider the Senate-drawn maps before both chambers shift focus to Georgia’s 14 congressional districts.

About the Author

ajc.com

Editors' Picks