News, Politics

Georgia House OKs Senate districts; Congress map to come

Georgia House redistricting chair Bonnie Rich, R- Suwanee, speaks, Tuesday, June 15, 2021, at the first of a series of redistricting hearings as Senate Majority Leader John Kennedy, R-Macon, looks on at the state Capitol in Atlanta. Georgia lawmakers are starting work on the once-a-decade process of redrawing electoral district lines.
Georgia House redistricting chair Bonnie Rich, R- Suwanee, speaks, Tuesday, June 15, 2021, at the first of a series of redistricting hearings as Senate Majority Leader John Kennedy, R-Macon, looks on at the state Capitol in Atlanta. Georgia lawmakers are starting work on the once-a-decade process of redrawing electoral district lines.
Credit AP Photo/Jeff Amy
'Add to My List' icon 'Added to My List' icon Add to My List In My List

Georgia House Republicans on Monday rubber-stamped the new districts that state senators drew for themselves, completing redistricting for both chambers of the General Assembly.

Lawmakers must still tackle district lines for the state’s 14 congressional seats. Senators have proposed a plan, but the House Republican majority has yet to release a proposed map. While the House and Senate deferred to each other on redistricting for their respective chambers, they must agree on a congressional map.

The House voted 96-70, mostly along party lines, to approve Senate Bill 1EX, which draws lines for the 56 Senate districts. The map is projected to keep 59%, or 33, of the Senate’s 56 seats in GOP hands. That’s down from 34 right now. Democrats said again Monday that’s too many, considering President Joe Biden carried Georgia with a narrow majority last year and nonwhite people make up most of the new Georgians added in the past decade.

“We are a 50-50 state; we are a battleground state,” said Rep. Bee Nguyen, an Atlanta Democrat. “We are a swing state. This map tells us a different story. This map creates a 60-40 split with the advantage given to the Republican Party for the next 10 years.”

Legislative & Congressional Reapportionment Committee Chairman Bonnie Rich, a Suwannee Republican, defended both the process for drawing the maps and the outcome.

“We believe it is in compliance with the Constitution and the Voting Rights Act,” Rich said.

The General Assembly must redraw electoral districts at least once every decade to equalize populations after the U.S. census. Georgia added more than a million people from 2010 to 2020, with urban districts generally growing and rural districts generally shrinking.

“We cannot ignore who those Georgians are,” said Democratic Rep. Derrick Jackson of Tyrone. “The entirety of the growth over the last decade was a result of the growth in the number of minority residents.”

The Senate map does not pair any incumbents who intend to seek reelection to that body.

Criticism has zeroed in on a handful of districts. Democrats have been critical of changes to Senate District 48, now held by Sen. Michelle Au, a Johns Creek Democrat. The new plan draws the district into Forsyth County, making it whiter and more likely to be won by a Republican.

“The majority party drew a map that targets the only Asian woman in the Senate and they did so by diluting the voices of Black and brown voters,” Nguyen said.

Rich said claims that Au’s district had been targeted was “an overly simplistic analysis of an extremely complicated process that has many layers.”

Democrats suggest that district, as well as one drawn for Republican Sen. Brian Strickland of McDonough, may violate the federal Voting Rights Act. Democratic Rep. Debra Bazemore of South Fulton said majority-Black Henry County is “egregiously” split. Those criticisms could lead to a lawsuit challenging the plan.

The Senate passed a House map last week that’s projected to keep 54% of the House seats, or 98 of 180, in Republican hands.

___

Follow Jeff Amy at http://twitter.com/jeffamy.