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Thursday, September 1, 2011 - 11:06am

Georgia's Democratic Future?

Updated: 3 years ago.
Republicans redrew state house and senate maps in such a way that the party could have a super majority in both chambers after the 2012 election. But Georgia's changing demographics suggest the Democratic party could stage a comeback in the next decade. (Photo credit: Jeanne Bonner)

Republican lawmakers have drawn redistricting maps that solidify their majorities in the state House and Senate. But Georgia’s changing demographics won’t guarantee that majority forever.

More than 95 percent of the voters in the 2010 Republican primary election were white, according to the Secretary of State’s office.

Meanwhile, blacks made up more than 50 percent of the turnout for the Democratic primary.

And according to census figures, the majority of the babies born in Georgia are now black, Hispanic or another minority.

Political scientists say that means a shift in voting patterns is probably on the horizon. Charles Bullock is a redistricting expert at the University of Georgia.

“I suspect what we may well see over the next ten years is that some districts, which are being drawn by Republicans and which will elect Republicans in 2012, may be electing Democrats by 2020 and maybe before that,” he said in an interview.

The growth patterns among registered voters tell the story, says Tom Crawford, editor of the online political journal, The Georgia Report. He says that the number of registered voters in Georgia who are black grew by 500,000 people in the past decade. White voters, by contrast, are declining.

“In the last ten years, the percentage of registered voters who are white has dropped by 11 percent. That’s a dramatic decrease," he said in an interview. "If it drops by another ten or 11 percent between now and 2020, then you really do have a battleground where each party is on equal footing.”

Crawford also said Hispanic voters are making gains. In 2000, there were about 8,000 registered Hispanic voters in Georgia. Now there are about 100,000.

“That has enormous implications for politics in this state, especially when you look at hard-line positions Republicans have taken on issues like immigration,” he said.

Crawford said there are also countervailing trends. For example, he said the Democratic party has lost many of its more moderate or conservative voters. And many moderate lawmakers on the state level who were elected as Democrats have switched to the Republican party.

Hispanic voters, also tend to be more conservative, in part because they are overwhelmingly Catholic. Many oppose abortion, which is a cornerstone of the modern Republican platform. But Crawford cautioned that Hispanics are likely to remember this year's immigration battle for years to come.

Lawmakers finished redrawing state and congressional district maps Wednesday as part of a once-a-decade redistricting special session.

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