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Friday, February 3, 2012 - 1:58pm

Map Tweaks Spur Questions

The state House approved small changes Friday to new election maps it passed during the summer Special session. The changes, the largest of which affects Hall County, Gov. Nathan Deal’s home county, spurred heated debate on the floor of the House.

The U.S. Department of Justice has already approved new state House and Senate election maps. The DOJ also signed off on new Congressional districts.

But lawmakers ok’d changes that will cut the number of Hall County representatives in the new maps from seven to four.

Rep. Roger Lane chairs the redistricting committee. The Darien Republican says the changes make sense.

“The proposal that we’re bringing to you, which was brought to us by the Hall County delegation, has compact districts, contiguous territory, and does not affect the benchmark Voting Rights Act districts that we established,” he told fellow lawmakers.

The federal Voting Rights Act requires Georgia to send new election maps to the federal government for approval.

Some lawmakers complained that Lane was showing favoritism because he wouldn’t consider other changes.

Rep. Mark Hatfield pointed to politics behind the redistricting maneuvering.

The Waycross Republican said his party gave him an award for voting most often against its leadership.

Republican lawmakers then redrew his district so that he will face a challenger in the next election. He said they wouldn’t consider changes to his district map that he presented over the summer and since the new session began last month.

“The way that these maps were drawn makes clear what’s going on here," he said on the floor of the House. "This isn’t about being fair and transparent and doing what’s right for the people. This is political payback.”

But he and other GOP leaders dismissed the comments, saying the Governor was one of many who had concerns about the Hall County maps.

House Speaker David Ralston, a Blue Ridge Republican, said Hatfield’s remarks were the most "inaccurate" he had ever heard on the floor of the House.