Special Session Highlights
Every 10 years, the state legislatures in our country are required to gather to redraw state legislative districts and equal out the populations in each. The requirement is based on the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th amendment to the United States Constitution and the principle of “one person, one vote.” The concept itself is very simple – people move and population areas shift. If the district lines always stayed the same, some areas may have a higher proportion of representatives while others have less.
In the past 10 years, Georgia has added approximately 1 million new residents, giving the state a population of 10.7 million people. The Georgia Senate has 56 seats. The Georgia House of Representatives has 180 seats. The Constitution requires we take the total population and divide it by the number of seats in the legislative body to reach the number of people each Senator or Representative should serve. The 10.7 million resident population divided by 56 Senate seats results in about 191,000 citizens in each Senate District, up from approximately 175,000 ten years ago; 10.7 million divided by 180 House seats results in about 59,000 citizens in each House District.
In Georgia, while each legislative body has to pass the map of the other legislative body, the Georgia House draws the House map and the Georgia Senate draws the Senate map. There is very little, if any, input from the House on the Senate map and vice versa.
The Georgia Senate has passed the proposed Senate map, which has been passed by the House and has gone to Governor Kemp for his signature. So how did the proposed map affect our area? Let’s start with this fact: South Georgia saw a decrease in approximately 200,000 people over the past decade. This is approximately the same size as one Senate seat and almost four House seats. This drop in population and the increase in population in other areas meant that South Georgia districts would have to expand, sometimes significantly, to reach the target population required.
The “old” 19th Senate District was already very large geographically, though it still only included 175,000 people, like the other Senate districts. The 19th was made up of all of Treutlen, Telfair, Wheeler, Montgomery, Toombs, Jeff Davis, Appling, Wayne, and Long Counties and portions of Tattnall and Liberty Counties.
The “new” 19th keeps most of its core, but loses Treutlen and Liberty Counties and picks up the remainder of Tattnall County, making it whole. It also picks up all of Bacon County and half of Coffee County, including part of the City of Douglas.
It’s a slightly larger geographic area for sure, but given the drop in area population and poor return of the census in our region, it is a very fair map. It also holds together a strong agriculture and rural community of interest and is an area where most citizens, like me, want to raise their families, worship as they choose, and live their lives with as little government intrusion as possible. People of this area are hard workers, problem solvers, and extremely supportive of one another. They are charitable and circle around one another when they find someone in need. I don’t expect any government lines to change that – if anything. The areas added are just the same.
The proposed House map has more changes for our areas, which is to be expected with smaller and more numerous districts there. I’ll leave it to our House colleagues to walk us through these changes in their columns.
If you have any additional questions about the Senate maps feel free to give me a call or shoot me an email. We also will be entering regular session again soon – January 10, 2022. If you have questions or ideas concerning regular session, don’t hesitate to reach out as well. Thank you, as always, for the honor of representing you in Atlanta.
Sen. Blake Tillery serves as Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee. He represents the 19th Senate District, which includes Appling, Jeff Davis, Long, Montgomery, Telfair, Toombs, Treutlen, Wayne, and Wheeler counties and a portion of Liberty and Tattnall counties. He can be reached by email at [email protected]
By Sen. Blake Tillery (R-Vidalia)