Democrats Denounce Georgia’s Legislative Maps for State House and Senate
The General Assembly has been in a Special Session since Nov. 03, 2021 to consider the new maps.
On Tuesday, November 09, 2021, the State Senate approved the State Senate map, Senate Bill 1EX, in a vote of 34 to 21.
On Wednesday, November 10, the State House approved the State House map, as part of House Bill 1EX, in a vote of 99 to 79.
Now, the State Senate will have to consider HB 1EX; and the State House will have to consider SB 1EX.
Over the last ten years, from 2010 to 2020, Georgia’s population has grown from approximately 9.7 million people, to 10.7 million people. Among all U.S. states, Georgia had the fourth largest growth.
Accordingly, with 56 seats in the State Senate, the new maps have to increase the population of each State Senate District from approximately 173,000 people per District, to approximately 191,000 people per District.
There are currently 34 Republicans and 22 Democrats in the state Senate.
Georgia’s population growth has been driven by racial minorities.
“Black, Latino, Asian, and multiracial Georgians collectively account for all of Georgia’s population growth between 2010 and 2020. The white population shrank both proportionally and in absolute terms over the course of the decade,” according to the Brennan Center for Justice.
Democrats have proposed maps with State House and Senate Districts that they say more strongly reflect these demographic changes and the future of Georgia.
The Republican maps, on the other hand, tend to create more White-majority districts that will tend to preserve their party’s political majority for perhaps another decade.
“When we look at our maps, they are extremely gerrymandered. They don’t take into effect the Georgia of the future. They’re still trying to pack minorities into minority districts,” State Sen. Lester Jackson (D-Savannah) told Atlanta Progressive News.
“We know thirty percent of Georgia is African American, thirteen percent is Hispanic. These maps don’t reflect more than forty percent of the state being culturally diverse,” Jackson said.
“They’re trying to pack minorities into certain areas, while keeping defined Republican districts,” he said.
Georgia’s population shifts have also consisted of an explosive growth of Metro Atlanta, and there has also been growth in urban areas like Augusta and Savannah.
As previously reported by APN, these population shifts–which are likely driven by Atlanta’s comparatively affordable housing market compared to other U.S. cities–were part of the reason that Georgia elected two Democratic U.S. Senators and now-President Joe Biden in 2020.
Georgia’s rural areas have lost some of their population, especially Albany, Georgia; and Middle Georgia.
In the Savannah area, where there has been population growth, Republicans have created one Senate District that will encompass most of the racial minority population there, and another two Senate Districts that will reach into Savannah and likely be represented by a Republican.
The impact of this will be to have a Republican-majority in the Chatham County Delegation, which means that when local legislation is introduced, it will likely be limited to bills that have Republican support. In the General Assembly, local bills must have the support of a majority of the local delegation.
Republicans defend their maps in part by saying they strived to prevent counties from being divided into different State Senate Districts, and keeping communities of interest intact where possible.
“For example, the Senate district map we voted out of committee splits only 29 of our 159 counties into representation by more than one senator. That number is down from 38 counties split under our current map,” State Sen. John F. Kennedy (R-Macon) said in an op-ed distributed to APN.
Yet, Republicans did not offer meaningful opportunities for public input and participation: even though town hall meetings were held over a series of months, Republicans only published their final proposed maps within days of the votes, giving members of the public little time to comment.
“We discovered today that the map we received Tuesday night, on the eve of the Special Session, wasn’t even the same map that was discussed in the committee,” Ken Lawler, Chairman of Fair Districts GA, said in a statement.
“The map that was voted on today, wasn’t even the one the public had access to until late last night.” Lawler said.
“By announcing the opportunities for public input less than 24 hours before they occurred, the State Legislature has all but ensured that young people like me would be excluded from this critical process,” Julian Fortuna, Campus Redistricting Organizer for the Georgia Youth Justice Coalition, said.
“I was forced to decide whether I would stay on campus and attend my classes or drive an hour and half to the capital to advocate for my right to representation,” Fortuna said.
“Two days of abbreviated hearings, with no significant opportunity for the public to study detailed proposed maps in conjunction with Census data, undermines meaningful public input,” Susannah Scott, President of the League of Women Voters of Georgia, said.
As previously reported by APN, Democrats for years, at least while they have been in the minority, have been pushing for an independent redistricting commission to redraw the legislative maps every ten years, rather than allowing politicians to do so.
Said independent commission proposal has not advanced.
Next, the Legislature will consider U.S. Congressional reapportionment.
(END / Copyright Atlanta Progressive News / 2021)