Senate panel approves redrawn congressional map that chips away at Democratic gains

Credit: Maya T. Prabhu

Credit: Maya T. Prabhu

On a party-line vote, a Georgia Senate panel gave approval Thursday to a Republican-drawn congressional district map that was first revealed to the public 25 hours before the vote.

The map is expected to be debated on the Senate floor Friday.

The Senate Reapportionment and Redistricting Committee also voted on the same 9-5 party-line vote against maps proposed by the chamber’s Democratic Caucus, with Republicans opposing the measure.

The GOP-drawn map could increase Republicans’ 8-6 majority in Georgia’s congressional delegation by stretching the 6th Congressional District in suburban Atlanta into more conservative areas to the north in Cherokee, Dawson and Forsyth counties.

At hearings Wednesday and Thursday, speakers questioned the need to drastically change the “core” of the 6th Congressional District, which three years ago was flipped by Democratic U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath. Throughout the process, both Republicans and Democrats have said their proposals maintain the core of the current districts — meaning they don’t drastically disrupt and divvy up communities.

Redistricting is required every 10 years to ensure that districts have the same populations following the U.S. census. Georgia’s population increased by 1 million over the past decade to a total of 10.7 million.

According to 2020 census numbers, McBath’s district as currently drawn needed to decrease by about 650 residents to meet the 765,136 residents that are required by law.

However, instead of moving voters to another district, the map that was approved Thursday shifts about 355,000 residents from Democratic-leaning DeKalb and Fulton counties out of the district and brings in about the same number of voters from Republican-leaning Cherokee, Dawson and Forsyth counties.

“When you move 45% of the population out of that district to form other districts, it’s really difficult to buy the sales pitch that you’re preserving the core of the district,” said Ken Lawler, chairman of the nonprofit Fair Districts GA, an advocacy group seeking fair and transparent redistricting.

Senate Reapportionment Chairman John Kennedy, a Macon Republican, has maintained that maps drawn by the GOP majority are fair and address population shifts across the state — meaning the loss of residents in South Georgia and the growth in the state’s metro areas.

McBath, who was reelected with 55% of the vote last year, would now face the difficult prospect of running for reelection in a district that leans distinctly Republican. McBath could instead run in a Democratic primary against U.S. Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux for Georgia’s 7th Congressional District, which would become more solidly liberal under the redistricting proposal. Bourdeaux’s election victory last year flipped that seat to the Democratic Party.

The 2nd Congressional District in southwest Georgia, held by longtime Democratic U.S. Rep. Sanford Bishop, would become slightly more competitive. The proposal reduces the district’s Black population to 49%, down from its current 51%.

In another change, the conservative northwest Georgia district held by Republican U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene would extend into parts of Cobb County in metro Atlanta, including Austell and Powder Springs. Still, the 14th Congressional District would remain solidly Republican.

The House Redistricting Committee also took public testimony discussing the congressional maps on Thursday and scheduled another hearing for Saturday.

The redistricting proposal is on a fast track toward approval after the General Assembly passed maps for the state House and Senate. The state legislative maps would safeguard Republican majorities but create a handful of new Democratic-leaning districts because of population increases primarily in metro Atlanta.

After passing the House and Senate, the redistricting plan will head to Republican Gov. Brian Kemp for his signature.