Georgia lawmakers begin 'particularly difficult' redistricting task
On Tuesday night, the Atlanta Braves' win offered Georgia lawmakers a spirit of bipartisan unity on this first day of the special session of the Georgia General Assembly.
The harmony over a sports victory is not likely to last.
Over the next few weeks, the General Assembly will grapple with the contentious process of redrawing district lines — both legislative and congressional — that will last for the next ten years.
“This has been a particularly difficult process because of the pandemic, which delayed the process,” said Rep. David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge), Speaker of the House.
Several drafts of maps are already public, including one from Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan and the Senate Reapportionment and Redistricting Committee.
A few weeks ago, state Democrats released their own congressional map that creates a 50-50 partisan split.
An independent group is offering what it calls a unity map.
“The process is driven by the population changes on our state from the census numbers that come out once a decade,” said Sen. John Kennedy (R-Macon), Chairman of the Senate Reapportionment and Redistricting Committee during a meeting on Wednesday.
Georgia has gained 1 million people in the past ten years — mostly into metro Atlanta — while losing residents in the rural parts of the state.
The Republican majority at the Gold Dome controls the final district lines, but Democrats plan to make their wishes known.
Over the summer, the House and Senate Reapportionment and Redistricting committees held joint public hearings across the state.
“As we move forward with this process,” said Sen. Gloria Butler, Senate Democratic Leader from Stone Mountain, “I hope we will listen to the people. They asked for fair maps and transparency.”
Changing demographics means some Republicans could lose seats, too.
The 2020 special session marks the fifth redistricting session for Rep. Calvin Smyre (D-Columbus), who was first elected in 1974 and is known as the dean of the Georgia House.
“Now the action starts with the political part of the process and political side of the equation,” Smyre said.
While redistricting is the primary reason for the special session, lawmakers may focus on some other issues, including Buckhead cityhood.