Congressional map critics make last-ditch plea, but redistricting nears end game

By: - November 18, 2021 7:57 pm

The state Senate is poised to vote on a new congressional map Friday that would flip a district back into Republican control. Ross Williams/Georgia Recorder (file photo)

A new congressional map that would undo some of the political gains made in recent years by Democrats in Georgia is teed up for a Senate vote Friday.

The GOP-drawn map, which would make a seat flipped by Democrats in 2018 more favorable to a Republican candidate, cleared the Senate redistricting committee along a party-line vote Thursday.

The state House, which would still need to sign off on the plan, held a public hearing Thursday and plans to hold another one virtually this Saturday morning.

If approved, Georgia’s future congressional delegation would likely include nine Republicans and five Democrats, who have represented six of Georgia’s 14 districts since Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux narrowly flipped a district in the northern Atlanta suburbs last year. Bourdeaux’s district would become a safer seat for Democrats under the plan.

State Democrats pressed an alternative map that evenly split the districts between the two political parties. The Senate panel rejected that map Thursday with a vote that also fell along party lines.

Senate Minority Leader Gloria Butler criticized the Republicans’ map for not reflecting Georgia’s growing diversity or acknowledging the narrowing partisan divide seen in recent statewide elections.

“In a state that is equally divided politically, a map that provides either party a significant partisan advantage discriminates against and reduces the voting power of Georgians with different political viewpoints,” the Stone Mountain Democrat said. “Georgia voters of color must be given an equal opportunity to elect their candidates of choice.”

Sen. John Kennedy, a Macon Republican who chairs the Senate redistricting committee, argued the proposal “fairly represents all Georgians.”

But state lawmakers are hearing more district-specific complaints from residents who are objecting to the changes, including the plan to merge a portion of southern Cobb County into a ruby red district in north Georgia represented by the conservative firebrand Marjorie Taylor Greene.

Valerie Testman, an Austell resident, is among those in south Cobb who are objecting to being merged into a conservative north Georgia congressional district represented by U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene. Screenshot of Georgia House of Representatives livestream

“It unsettled me when I saw who might possibly represent my family, my community, and our interests in south Cobb,” long-time Austell resident Valerie Testman told lawmakers Thursday. “What I do know is that my voice and my vote will not come through in the 14th district.

“I don’t know if you all understood the community and that lower Powder Springs and Austell area that you were placing into that district. You couldn’t have understood our community. Otherwise, that map wouldn’t look that way,” she said.

Greene, who was elected last year, has compared COVID-19 safety protocols to the persecution of Jews by the Nazis during the Holocaust. Before that, she was stripped of her committee assignments because of a series of violent, anti-Semitic comments and social media posts she made before being elected to Congress in November.

A Republican Cobb County state lawmaker, Rep. Ed Setzler of Acworth, asked Testman whether her reservations were specific to Greene’s reputation. He asked whether she would have accepted an African American Republican, citing South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott as an example.

Testman, who said she has voted for candidates from both parties in the past, said she was also troubled that Cobb County would now be split into four congressional districts.

Several groups also pushed back on the maps Thursday during hours of public hearing, including the League of Women Voters of Georgia, the American Civil Liberties Union and others.


Julie Bolen, redistricting chair with the league, flagged changes to the 6th District that would set Democratic Congresswoman Lucy McBath up for a tough reelection battle next year. According to the City University of New York’s Redistricting and You website, McBath’s district is set to shift from voting 55.7% for Joe Biden in the last election to favoring Donald Trump by 57.8%.

Bolen also cited a change to the state legislative Senate map that will make it harder for the chamber’s only female Asian American, Johns Creek Democrat Sen. Michelle Au, to win another term.

“It’s almost impossible for the female African American House member (McBath) to hold her seat, and this is something that really bothers me and lots of women in Georgia,” she said. “If you look at our Legislature, women are terribly underrepresented and minority women are underrepresented. And now it feels like you’re targeting women who are saying things you don’t like or representing things that you don’t like as the majority male Legislature.”

Bolen also raised concerns about the lack of time for the public to review proposed maps and the transparency surrounding the process, saying the public deserved to hear the rationale behind specific changes.

Senate Majority Leader Mike Dugan, a Carrollton Republican, pushed back on claims that GOP lawmakers have not been forthright about their plans.

“We’ve had multiple people come up and say, ‘We don’t understand because y’all haven’t said,’ and at some point, I’m wondering: It’s not that we haven’t said. Are they listening?” Dugan said.

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Jill Nolin
Jill Nolin

Jill Nolin has spent nearly 15 years reporting on state and local government in four states, focusing on policy and political stories and tracking public spending. She has spent the last five years chasing stories in the halls of Georgia’s Gold Dome, earning recognition for her work showing the impact of rising opioid addiction on the state’s rural communities. She is a graduate of Troy University.