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Monday July 26th, 2021 12:11PM

Public hearing on state redistricting lines to be held in Cumming

By Kimberly Sizemore Anchor/Reporter

Georgia lawmakers are kicking off the process to redraw congressional, legislative and other electoral districts, setting up a showdown between Republicans seeking to retain power and Democrats reaching toward a majority.

The joint House and Senate redistricting committees will hold in-person hearings around the state to collect testimony about what citizens want to see in new district lines. One of those hearings will be held in Cumming. On Tuesday, June 29 from 5-7p.m. the public is invited to attend a meeting concerning the issue in the cafeteria of South Forsyth High School. Other meetings will be scheduled around the state 

House Legislative & Congressional Reapportionment Committee Chairman Bonnie Rich, a Suwanee Republican, said at an earlier committee meeting that lawmakers simply desire to listen.

“Our purpose is to hear, primarily Georgians and members of the public, our constituents,” Rich said.

State and local governments must redraw lines for congressional, legislative and other electoral districts once every 10 years following the U.S. Census to balance population. The process helps determine which party will hold power for the following decade. Georgia’s current maps were drawn to sharply favor Republicans.

The state’s overall population rose nearly 10% to 10.7 million people over the decade, but more detailed Census results are expected to show uneven growth, with most new residents concentrated in Atlanta and along the coast. Many rural areas may have lost population.

The ideal U.S. House district will have 765,136 residents, while state Senate districts will average 191,284 and state House districts will average 59,511 people.

Republicans drew Georgia’s congressional map in 2010 with an eye to putting 10 seats into their party’s hands. However, Democrat Lucy McBath in 2018 wrested away the 6th District, while Democrat Carolyn Bourdeaux won the 7th District last year, leaving Republicans with an 8-6 majority of congressional seats. The GOP is widely expected to try to redraw at least one of those seats to make it more favorable to a Republican challenger.

Changing boundary lines also affects the General Assembly. Athens-Clarke County is split among three state House districts, only one of which is represented by a Democrat, even though Joe Biden carried 70% of the votes there and the county overall is large enough for two entire House districts.

Thanks to increasingly sophisticated map-drawing technology, critics say incumbents can often choose their voters, instead of voters choosing officials. Some Georgia Democrats have pushed for an independent commission to redraw districts, but those proposals have won no support from Republican leaders. Top GOP figures such as House Speaker David Ralston say Democrats used redistricting to maximize their advantage when they controlled the General Assembly.

This will be the first time in decades that Georgia won’t have to seek federal approval for district line changes after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the part of the Voting Rights Act that required preclearance for a number of mostly southern jurisdictions.

These hearings will be live-streamed on the Georgia General Assembly website, www.legis.ga.gov/schedule/all. That website will also provide details on any future hearings as details become available. More hearings will be planned around the state.

Georgia residents are also able to submit written testimony using the form available on the General Assembly website www.legis.ga.gov/news/senate/submit-written-testimony-to-senate-and-house-redistricting-committees.

  • Associated Categories: Homepage, Local/State News
  • Associated Tags: Elections, republicans, democrats, Voting, redistricting, Senate, house
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