Georgia state Sen. John Kennedy, R-Macon, introduces a map of state Senate districts in this 2021 file photo. A federal judge ruled in October that some of Georgia’s congressional, state Senate and state House districts were drawn in a racially discriminatory manner.

Georgia state Sen. John Kennedy, R-Macon, introduces a map of state Senate districts in this 2021 file photo. A federal judge ruled in October that some of Georgia’s congressional, state Senate and state House districts were drawn in a racially discriminatory manner.

Credit: Hyosub Shin/AP

Macon voters will elect state representatives in newly drawn House districts in 2024.

State legislators have been at the capitol for the last week for a chaotic and contentious special session of the General Assembly, racing against a deadline imposed by a court order to redraw Georgia’s political maps to better represent Black voters.

Media coverage and public attention statewide have focused on the redistricting of Georgia’s U.S. Congress and state Senate seats. But for Middle Georgians, the most immediate impact of the redistricting process will be felt in the state House, whose new voting maps were approved and sent to the governor’s desk Tuesday.

The new House map features two new House districts for the Macon area, neither of which has an incumbent representative living in them, and both of which have a Black majority voting-age population.

In accordance with the court order, the map also adds three other majority Black districts in metro Atlanta for a total of five.

But Democrats have condemned the map, which was drawn and supported by the Republican majority, arguing that it violates the Voting Rights Act by significantly reducing the nonwhite vote in two majority-minority districts in metro Atlanta.

Meanwhile, the Democrats’ preferred proposal for the House redistricting map, which was introduced but not voted on during the special session, only added four new majority-Black districts.

Kimberlyn Carter, the Macon-based executive director of Represent Georgia, a nonpartisan advocacy organization, described the redistricting process as “yet another bipartisan boxing match” focused more on the interests of incumbent lawmakers than the state’s voters.

“It is voters who should be picking their representation and not representation picking their voters,” Carter said.



A large number of voters in the Macon area will have a new House representative once the map goes into effect — and not just those in the area’s two new districts.

To accommodate the new districts being drawn, the boundaries of surrounding districts were sometimes dramatically altered in order to maintain an equal distribution of population.

One of Middle Georgia’s future state representatives will represent District 145, which encompasses a quadrant of western Bibb County and the southern half of Monroe County, including its county seat of Forsyth.

The other, in District 149, will be elected by constituents in a strip covering a small part of eastern Bibb County, the part of southern Jones County south of Highway 49, and most of Baldwin County, including Milledgeville.

In Milledgeville, a Republican incumbent state representative, Kenneth Vance, has been drawn out of the district he lives in and currently represents.

In Macon, Tangie Herring, a teacher who had mounted a primary challenge to state Rep. James Beverly, D-Macon, the leader of the House Democratic coalition, no longer resides in his district.

The changes will shake up Middle Georgia’s politics.

“With the creation of the two minority majority districts, Macon-Bibb’s delegation is much more solidly Democratic than it’s probably been any time in the last 20 years, [since] the 2000 takeover of state government by Republicans,” said Andrew Blascovich, a longtime Middle Georgia political operative who served on the staff of Mayor Robert Reichert and Sen. Johnny Isakson.

Macon-Bibb County’s House delegation currently includes four representatives: Democrats Miriam Paris and James Beverly and Republicans Robert Dickey and Dale Washburn.

In the new map, Dickey is entirely drawn out of Bibb and Houston counties. The Agriculture Committee chair and peach farmer will now represent Upson County and some of Lamar County while retaining Crawford County, where he lives, and northern Peach County.

The shift to representing a more rural district “matches where he sits in Crawford and his background in agriculture and as Ag chair,” Blascovich said.

Paris’ district, still entirely within Bibb County borders, has shifted northward, losing some areas of Macon that “she has had for a long time and she has had ties to since being on City Council,” Blascovich said.

Washburn, who currently represents portions of Bibb, Monroe, and Jones counties, will lose some Bibb and Monroe voters but shift northward to stretch into the Atlanta suburbs, reaching as far north as Walton County.

Beverly will lose parts of East Macon and gain a portion of northern Houston County that includes Warner Robbins Air Force Base.

In all the changes, some see an opportunity to increase political engagement, as the representatives have some legwork ahead in introducing themselves to their new constituents. “It’s an opportunity for voters to get to know who their elected officials are again,” Blascovich said.

The drawing of state legislative boundaries may seem like a dry, technical aspect of the political process — but its stakes for ordinary people are significant.

“Most people don’t understand that, when you say, ‘I live in County District 9,’ that is an actual place, and the lines of that district represent your access to power, to decent roads, to public safety,” said Carter, the Represent Georgia executive director.



On Oct. 26, U.S. District Judge Steve C. Jones issued a ruling in a voting rights case finding that Georgia’s legislature had gerrymandered its districts to weaken the voting power of Black voters.

His judgment, which ran over 500 pages, provided highly detailed instructions for how the state should remedy this issue.

The order specified regions across the state where creation of new Black-majority districts is required, as well as a deadline: If the legislature does not draw the new districts by Dec. 8, the court will step in and create a new map.

During the proceedings in the Capitol, not far from anyone’s mind was the sobering experience of Alabama, whose legislature openly defied a similar judgment last year by drawing a map that only contained one of the two new majority-Black congressional districts it had been ordered to create.

In June, the Supreme Court struck down the Alabama legislature’s redistricting proposal, and a new map, drawn by a court-appointed special master, has since been imposed on the state.

In Georgia, lawmakers from both parties seek to avoid this scenario out of a desire to protect their own seats — and, for Republicans, in the interest of their party.

While racial discrimination in district maps is illegal, lawmakers are effectively permitted by a 2019 Supreme Court ruling to draw districts to favor partisan advantage. The new Republican House map, while adding five new Black-majority seats, is expected to only add one or two new Democratic seats.

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle said they also sought to minimize disruption to the existing political maps.

Each side said the other’s proposal could land Georgia in a situation similar to Alabama’s. Republicans said the Democrats’ House map violates Judge Jones’ ruling by providing one too few new Black-majority districts, and Democrats claimed the Republican plan unlawfully dismantles majority-nonwhite districts, which are also legally protected, in Gwinnett and Dekalb counties.



Rep. Rob Leverett, the House redistricting committee’s Republican chairman, defended the map that eventually passed on the House floor by arguing it complied with the court order and that the Democrats’ criticism therefore effectively accused Judge Jones of misreading the Voting Rights Act.

“I don’t believe it violates the Voting Rights Act, but more importantly it doesn’t violate the judge’s order,” Leverett said.

Democrats, meanwhile, acknowledged their solution did not comply with the letter of the court order, which specified that five new “majority-Black” House districts be created, but said that their alternate solution of four majority-Black districts and one “opportunity” district, in which Black voters are not a numerical majority but still likely to elect the candidate of their choice, would not violate the Voting Rights Act, which was the basis for the lawsuit.

Brian Sells, an attorney who consulted with the Democrats to draw their proposed map, described the judge’s language concerning “majority-Black” districts as a product of the haste of the process.

“I forgive him for the lack of precision in his language,” Sells said in the House redistricting committee last week.

“I am leery of construing a judge’s order in a way that maybe could lead me to jeopardy,” Leverett, the committee chair, responded.

Regardless of its merits, due to a series of procedural mixups, the Democratic plan was never voted on, either in the redistricting committee or on the House floor, in a testament to the frantic speed of the special session.

Last Thursday, the first time Leverett called for a motion to propose a vote on the Democrats’ bill in the committee, no member raised such a motion.

The following day, ahead of the floor vote on the Republican plan, the committee held a meeting scheduled at the last minute at which Beverly, the Democratic minority leader, called for a vote on his plan. But Leverett said the Democrats hadn’t brought copies of the maps they were actually proposing to this hearing, and said he couldn’t allow his members to vote on a map they weren’t looking at.

This story comes to GPB through a reporting partnership with The Telegraph.