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Friday, April 13, 2012 - 9:19am

Augusta, Cobb Seek Federal Intervention

Augusta officials are asking a federal judge to draw new district maps for county and school board officials after state lawmakers couldn't agree on a plan to divide the area.

Lawmakers in Augusta's Richmond County weren't the only ones who failed to produce a map.

Cobb County lawmakers also couldn't agree on how to divide their county into districts, as they have to do every 10 years based on new Census data.

The once-every-decade process of dividing up political lines based on population is usually handled without much fanfare in counties large enough to do it.

But Augusta Democrat Hardie Davis says, politics got in the way this time and now the county is left open to an expensive legal challenge.

"I think what the Commission has done is, in effect, a fall-back position," Davis says. "It would not surprise me if there were a citizens lawsuit, as well, that would again further this process along."

While lawmakers in both locales point fingers at each other, the counties are left open to lawsuits and no one knows who will vote for whom in elections just months off.

Augusta Mayor Deke Copenhaver says, the situation is embarrassing and the county commission now has decided to seek federal judicial intervention.

"Currently you have candidates running for office that don't know the lines of the districts they're running for," Copenhaver says. "As well as you have voters that live in those districts that don't know which candidates they can vote for at this point."

Lawmakers originally drew maps based on citizen input.

Judges will not have to listen to that input when they draw the maps.

Commissioners hope that will speed the process and prevent lawsuits.

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