Tue., August 9, 2011 5:12pm (EDT)

Squabbling Over Redistricting Begins
By Jeanne Bonner
Updated: 3 years ago

ATLANTA  —  
Lawmakers must redraw the boundaries of legislative and congressional districts every ten years to align them with current population concentrations. In this year's round, Republicans are in charge. They will need to create a new Congressional district, among other tasks.(Photo credit: Jeanne Bonner)
Lawmakers must redraw the boundaries of legislative and congressional districts every ten years to align them with current population concentrations. In this year's round, Republicans are in charge. They will need to create a new Congressional district, among other tasks.(Photo credit: Jeanne Bonner)
State lawmakers will begin a special legislative session Monday for the once-a-decade redistricting. Democrats are already accusing Republicans of trying to reduce the number of white Democratic lawmakers.

Under the federal Voting Rights Act, Georgia must preserve districts where minority voters hold a majority.

Republicans are in charge of redistricting for the first time in the state's history, and their draft maps show more majority-minority districts. But districts of some white Democrat lawmakers are also combined with precincts represented by minority lawmakers.

House Minority Leader, Rep. Stacey Abrams, says that means white Democratic incumbents may lose their seats. That would end their representation of minority voters, who traditionally vote Democratic.

“The Voting Rights Act is not simply about the number of districts with majority-minority populations," she said. "It’s about the ability of minorities to exercise electoral power. And that electoral power is diminished if by eliminating White Democrats, you result in the elimination of racial coalitions.”

Abrams, an Atlanta Democrat, says the law is meant to give minority voters a wider choice of candidates.

House redistricting committee chair, Republican Roger Lane says it's all just politics.

The Darien Republican says under federal law, he says, Georgia must preserve districts where minority voters hold a majority, and according to the 2010 census, that consists of 49 districts.

“It’s very difficult to maintain your one person, one vote --- make sure you have 53,820 people in each district or close to that," he said. "And maintain those 49 minority districts at more than 50 percent black participation. It’s not easy but we’ve been able to do it.”

Lane said Democrats are playing a game of cat and mouse.

"The Voting Rights Act is federal law, and the Democrats would love to get us to violate the Voting Rights Act so they can try to get our plan overturned, I suspect," he said. "But we're pretty comfortable we are complying with the Voting Rights Act."

State lawmakers will report back to the Capitol on Monday. Lane said his party aims to wrap up redistricting by Labor Day.

A draft of the new legislative district boundaries will be available on Friday. Lane said the first public meeting following the release of the preliminary map will take place on Tuesday.