ATLANTA (AP) — One of the longest-serving members of the Georgia House said it best on Wednesday: “Reapportionment is not about kindness or mercy.”
Republicans pushed their proposed new map for the state’s 180 House districts past Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver of Decatur and other minority Democrats on a 99-79 vote, with only two Republicans dissenting.
Republicans in both chambers of the General Assembly have now passed their preferred maps, sending them to the other chamber for approval. Georgia’s House and Senate traditionally haven’t interfered in how the other chamber draws its districts, which means there could be little substantive action before they are finalized.
The House map is projected to create districts likely to elect 98 Republicans, or 54% of the House’s 180 members. That’s down from 103 Republicans now.
Republicans say the maps comply with the federal Voting Rights Act, which requires that minorities get a chance to elect candidates of their choice, by creating more majority-Black and majority-minority districts. The approved House map also divides only 69 of Georgia’s 159 counties, down from 73 currently, and removes five seats considered safely Republican.
“Our maps are representative of our state,” said House Legislative & Congressional Reapportionment Committee Chair Bonnie Rich, a Suwanee Republican.
But Democrats say Republicans have weakened some majority-nonwhite districts and needlessly divided some communities.
“Republicans have drawn a state House map that silences the voices of Georgia voters, it minimizes the political power of people of color, and ignores the fact that Georgia is equally divided politically,” said Rep. Carolyn Hugley, a Columbus Democrat.
[Read about Republican’s news conference response to accusations of gerrymandering here]
Fair Districts Georgia, a group that works to prevent gerrymandering, gave the Republican map a B, based on statistical analysis. However, the group gives the proposal an F on competitiveness, because only seven of those districts are likely to give both major parties a shot at winning.
The General Assembly must redraw electoral districts at least once every decade to equalize populations following the U.S. Census. Georgia added more than a million people from 2010 to 2020, with populations in urban districts generally growing and rural districts shrinking.
This will be the first time in decades that Georgia lawmakers won’t be required to get federal approval of their maps after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a portion of the Voting Rights Act.
Although Georgia statewide is narrowly divided politically, independent analysts say Democrats are at a disadvantage not only because Republicans are drawing the maps, but also because their voters cluster so tightly in urban areas.
Rich said the map pairs four sets of incumbents who would be forced to run against each other if they seek reelection. Lawmakers who have acknowledged they are paired include Democrat Winfred Dukes of Albany and Republican Gerald Greene of Cuthbert, Snellville Democrats Shelly Hutchinson and Rebecca Mitchell, Republicans James Burchett of Waycross and Dominic LaRiccia of Douglas, and Republicans Danny Mathis of Cochran and Robert Pruitt of Eastman. Republicans Matt Dollar of Marietta and Wes Cantrell of Woodstock would have been paired in Atlanta’s northern suburbs, but they’re not planning to seek reelection.
Some other incumbents remain unhappy: The map draws GOP Rep. Philip Singleton of Sharpsburg, who would be drawn into a majority African American district.
“I would dare say most in this chamber have been greatly disrespected in this process and have had no voice,” Singleton said Wednesday.
Link to updated Georgia redistricting maps: Scroll down and click “Proposed Plans” tab to see the maps.