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House Passes Senate Map

On Monday afternoon, in the third week of a Special Session focused solely on redistricting, the Georgia House adopted a new map of state Senate Districts in a 96-70 vote split nearly along party lines. The Senate passed the House legislative map on Friday, November 12, with a vote of 32-21 with one Republican voting with Democrats against it.

Both bills were sent to Governor Brian Kemp to be signed into law. Now, state lawmakers will turn their attention to realigning the state’s 14 Congressional districts.

The General Assembly redraws the state’s legislative and congressional district boundaries every 10 years to accommodate changes in population based on the U.S. Census.

As a member of the Senate Reapportionment and Redistricting Committee, Senator continued from page

Blake Tillery, R-Vidalia, has been heavily involved in the remapping process. He commented on how the redistricting will affect his own area of representation. “South Georgia lost over 200,000 people in the past 10 years. Based on that, we knew we would lose at least one Senate seat. I am pleased to report that District 19 is expected to remain mostly intact.”

Once signed into law, Tillery’s new district will retain Toombs, Montgomery, Wheeler, Telfair, Tattnall, Jeff Davis, Appling, Wayne and Long counties. The District will lose Liberty County but pick up Bacon County and part of Coffee County. Also, District 19 will no longer include Treutlen County. “I wish Treutlen could remain in my District, but it could have been worse.”

Tillery said in considering the remapping of the Senate Districts, “We did take into account some of the Democratic ideas. But really, we are driven by the legal premises of the Constitution—one person, one vote—and the Voting Rights Act to do certain things not to minimize minority votes. We wanted to make sure we followed the Constitution and were within legal guidelines.”

House Map

District 156 state House Representative Leesa Hagan of Vidalia said of the new House map, 'While the new 156th House District still contains all of Toombs and Montgomery counties, everything else about it is a change from the current District. It's a great District though, because the counties and communities within it have much in common and there is a lot of potential for collaboration and mutual growth.” Hagan added, “I'm excited about getting to know the people in Ben Hill, Telfair, Wheeler, and Tattnall counties who will be a part of the 156th soon.' After two hours of debate last Friday, the House approved a map setting new boundaries for its 180 Districts with a vote of 99 to 79, which was split mostly along party lines. Democrats have charged Republicans with speeding through the redistricting process and drawing maps that don’t reflect the growth of the state’s minority population in the last 10 years. While Republicans defended their work and the legality of their boundaries, Democrats laid the groundwork for likely lawsuits over the maps in floor speeches last week prior to the map’s approval. Dave Williams of Capitol Beat News Bureau, reported that Representative Bonnie Rich, chairman of the House Legislative and Congressional Reapportionment Committee, told her colleagues in the House that the map not only keeps House district lines as close to equal in population as possible as — the goal being 59,511 residents — but creates 49 majority Black House districts. This is an increase of one district over the current House map adopted in 2011. The map also allows for 27 “minority opportunity” districts where minority candidates should be competitive, Rich said.

The map splits 69 counties, compared to 73 under the current map, Rich added. It also pairs only eight incumbent House members in four districts. The House map Democrats drew in 2011, the last time they held a majority in the chamber, paired 37 Republican incumbents and nine Democratic incumbents, Rich explained. “This is a map that complies with the law, first and foremost, with the Voting Rights Act and the United States Constitution. The map is fair to Georgia,” Rich said. The GOP map did include several district recommendations made in the Democrats' map, almost exactly copying the proposed lines for seats in Columbus and Southwest Georgia.

Responding to criticism about rushing the redistricting process, Rich said the 2022 election schedule requires the General Assembly to act without delay. “We have deadlines,” she said. “The elections officials are going to have to rush to implement this.”

Democrats complained that the map favors Republicans in a state that has evolved into a 50-50 split between the two parties, as reflected in the outcomes of recent statewide elections. Democrats argue that the state has grown more diverse and urban and the map ignores the fact that Georgia is equally divided politically. They also accused Republican leaders of diluting minority voting strength by packing minority voters into certain districts in order to reduce the minority voting-age populations of surrounding districts.

Population Shift

The 2020 Census documented explosive population growth in metropolitan areas of the state. There are now more than 10.7 million Georgians, a growth of more than a million new residents since 2010, driven by an influx of Black, Hispanic and Asian residents concentrated in Fulton, DeKalb, Gwinnett and Cobb counties. Those four counties accounted for nearly half of the state’s total growth. Other areas of growth include Forsyth County and areas surrounding Augusta and Savannah.

But 67 counties lost population over the past decade, mainly in Southwest Georgia. At the state legislative level, the balance of power will continue to shift away from rural Georgia, as nearly 100 of the 180 state House districts are below the target population size of 59, 511 people. That includes all but six districts south of Columbus, Macon and Augusta. On the Senate side, only two districts south of metro Atlanta are not underpopulated.

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