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Wednesday, August 17, 2011 - 12:08pm

Redistricting Would Divide Many House Districts

Proposed House legislative maps would change both rural and urban districts. The one common denominator is that the party in charge, the Republicans, wants to maximize its number of seats.

Many of the proposed changes will either favor Republican incumbents or boost the number of Republican-leaning districts.

For example, the draft maps divide Athens-Clarke County into three House districts. Even though the area leans Democratic, two Republicans would likely represent it.

Lowndes County in south central Georgia would also split into three districts. That would allow two Valdosta-area legislators who switched to the Republican party to keep their seats.

Tom Crawford, editor of the online political digest The Georgia Report, says that’s how redistricting works. And in this round, Republicans are calling the shots.

“They want as many districts as possible with Republicans in them, and as few districts as they can get away with that have Democrats in them," Crawford said in an interview at the state Capitol. "And of course if the Democrats were the majority party, they would be doing the same thing. It’s a very political process.”

Crawford said it helps to take the long view.

“Whichever party happens to have the majority control of the Legislative is going to try to draw the map so that it maximizes the political advantage it has over the minority party," he said. "Ten years ago, you had the Democrats drawing the maps. Now you have Republicans drawing the maps.”

Democrats admit that members of their party overreached when they redrew the maps last decade. But some say they hoped Republicans would learn from their mistakes.

"Two wrongs don't make a right," Minority Leader Stacey Abrams said.

Democrats, however, will keep multiple seats in the Savannah and Columbus areas.

Redistricting began Monday. Both the House and the Senate are set to vote on their maps on Thursday.