Georgia Adds 1 Million Residents, Keeps 14 House Seats After 2020 Census
Georgia's population soared over the last decade, growing by more than 10% to 10,711,908 people, according to the first set of 2020 Census results released Monday.
The top-level apportionment data also confirms the state will keep its 14 seats in the U.S. House, while six states will gain seats and seven states will lose seats.
Texas will now have two more representatives, and Colorado, Florida, Montana, North Carolina and Oregon each add one. On the flip side, California, Illinois, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia are the seven that will shrink their delegations by a seat.
Full data down to the Census Block level used for redistricting will not be released until mid-August, but the apportionment data tells us the ideal size for legislative boundaries.
U.S. House districts will represent 765,136 people, up more than 73,000 from the last Census. The ideal size of the 56 state Senate districts has grown by more than 18,000 to 191,284, and 180 state House districts will serve 59,511 Georgians each, adding in nearly 5,700 more people.
Bryan Tyson, an attorney who specializes in redistricting and election law for the firm Taylor English Duma, said that rural parts of the state that have not kept up with Georgia's population growth are destined to see fewer districts while parts of metro Atlanta might add some.
"It's like squeezing a balloon — you squeeze on one side, it's going to pop out the other side," he said. "So if there's a lower population in one part of the state, it's going to have to grow north, which means Atlanta is going to continue to pull districts towards it."
While the final population numbers at the local level aren't released, Census estimates can be used to track which areas have exploded in growth. Tyson said that's primarily in the northern arc outside of Atlanta, in counties like Gwinnett, Cherokee and Forsyth. Inside Atlanta's core counties of Fulton, DeKalb and Clayton, concentrated areas of growth in certain neighborhoods could have a ripple effect for how districts are drawn.
On the congressional front, things could be made a little easier with incumbents leaving to run for higher office, like Rep. Jody Hice challenging Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and Rep. Buddy Carter considering a run for U.S. Senate. That would leave a large portion of southeast Georgia able to be moved around to meet the population goals.
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Republicans control both chambers of the legislature and every statewide elected office, but Democrats managed to flip both U.S. Senate seats and the state's 16 electoral votes in the 2020 cycle, setting up a bruising 2022 election year that could make down-ballot races easier or harder depending on how the GOP draws its maps.
In the state House, Republicans have a relatively comfortable majority of 103 seats to Democrats’ 77, although there are a handful of suburban seats that could be vulnerable in upcoming elections due to blue-leaning demographic shifts — the very areas that have seen an explosion of population growth. In the state Senate, Republicans hold 34 of the 56 seats with a handful of metro Atlanta districts that saw close races for incumbents.
This redistricting cycle will also be the first done without Georgia needing to submit maps for pre-clearance under the Voting Rights Act, thanks to a U.S. Supreme Court decision in 2013, and after a 2019 ruling that federal courts do not have jurisdiction over claims of partisan gerrymandering.