New Georgia Senate map targets Democrats and protects Republicans

Redistricting session begins at the Capitol on Wednesday
Sen. John Kennedy, a Republican from Macon, introduces a redistricting bill in the Senate chamber during a special session at the Georgia State Capitol in Atlanta in November 2021. Senate leaders proposed new maps for their chamber Monday after a federal judge rejected the maps drawn in 2021. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: Hyosub Shin/AJC

Credit: Hyosub Shin/AJC

Sen. John Kennedy, a Republican from Macon, introduces a redistricting bill in the Senate chamber during a special session at the Georgia State Capitol in Atlanta in November 2021. Senate leaders proposed new maps for their chamber Monday after a federal judge rejected the maps drawn in 2021. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

A new Georgia Senate map released Monday creates two additional districts with Black majorities in metro Atlanta after a federal judge ordered a redistricting of the state.

The Senate’s Republican majority protected itself by crafting new districts that target Democrats, state Sens. Jason Esteves and Elena Parent. Both Democrats currently represent primarily white districts, but the new map put them in districts with Black majorities.

While the revised political boundaries would increase the number of majority-Black districts from 13 to 15, Black voters wouldn’t necessarily gain representation in next year’s elections. Black voters overwhelmingly support Democrats while most white voters in Georgia back Republicans.

The Senate map protects incumbents of both parties, minimizing the chances that many seats will change hands. Republicans hold a 33-23 majority in the state Senate, an advantage that will likely remain intact after redistricting.

The state Senate proposed new districts after a judge tossed out the previous map.

Credit: gina.wright

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Credit: gina.wright

Debate on the map will begin during a special redistricting session at the state Capitol that opens Wednesday. New maps with additional majority-Black districts in Congress and the state House are expected to be released later this week.

U.S. District Judge Steve Jones ordered the Republican-controlled General Assembly to remap Georgia’s congressional and state legislative districts after ruling that they illegally weakened the political power of Black voters in violation of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Esteves’ current district in Cobb and Fulton counties is 22% Black; his new district that stretches south along Atlanta’s westside would have a 52% Black voting-age population

Parent’s district would change from 29% Black to 51% Black as its boundaries shift from the Decatur area in DeKalb County, forming a vertical strip that stretches to Morrow in Clayton County.

Neither Esteves nor Parent commented on the new map Monday.

The proposed map would also protect Senate Judiciary Chairman Brian Strickland, a Republican from McDonough. The Black population in Atlanta’s southern suburbs has grown in the past few decades.

If the proposed map is approved, Strickland’s new district would split the nearly 70% Black city of McDonough and stretch east into Newton, Morgan and Walton counties.

Strickland’s proposed district would lean Republican, with voting-age Black residents accounting for 31% of the population, while the district to the west would be 60% Black and represented by state Sen. Gail Davenport, a Democrat from Jonesboro.

Strickland declined to comment on the proposed map Monday, but he said last week that he “won’t let the noise around this complicated process distract (him) going forward.”

The first public hearing on Senate districts is set for Wednesday, Senate Redistricting Chairwoman Shelly Echols said. The House also scheduled a Wednesday afternoon hearing.

“Over the past month, Senate Redistricting Chair Shelly Echols has conducted a thoughtful, inclusive, and transparent redrawing process,” the Senate Republican caucus said in a statement. “Her main priority has been to ensure the new plan fully complies with Judge Jones’ order while also upholding Georgia’s traditional principles.”

In a statement, Republican Lt. Gov. Burt Jones also praised Echols’ work on the proposed new districts that fulfill “obligations as specified by the court order.” Jones presides over the Senate.

Besides the state Senate, Jones ordered the General Assembly to create one additional congressional district with a Black majority along with five more majority-Black seats in the state House.

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