For The Record

State lawmakers ready to wrap congressional redistricting with a GOP bow

By: - November 22, 2021 1:00 am

Lawmakers listen to streamed testimony about their congressional redistricting plan Nov. 20, 2021. Ross Williams/Georgia Recorder

Georgia lawmakers are prepped to finish a makeover of the state’s political landscape Monday with the state House teed up to vote new congressional districts in a floor vote.

Saturday lawmakers passed a GOP-favored division of Georgia’s 14 congressional seats through the House Redistricting Committee, 10-4 on party lines.

The map is scheduled for the House Rules Committee calendar Monday, and a full vote is expected to follow. The Senate gave its approval Friday following a heated partisan debate. With new state House and Senate boundaries already passed, the congressional map is the only item left on lawmakers’ to-do list for the once-a-decade special redistricting session that started Nov. 2.

The new boundaries would shift voters across the state into new congressional districts to align with population shifts recorded in the 2020 U.S. Census. The most significant political shift comes to the people who live in Rep. Lucy McBath’s District 6 in the Atlanta suburbs, now drawn to shift northward into more conservative territory in Forsyth, Cherokee and Dawson counties.Neighboring Democratic Congresswoman Carolyn Bourdeaux is in line to pick up more Democratic voters. The likely result is for McBath to lose the territory she first won from Republicans in 2018, expanding the GOP’s majority in the state congressional delegation. The current congressional split is eight Republicans to six Democrats.

About 30 speakers signed up to weigh in virtually Saturday, but only about a third of them did, with some apparently unable to connect because of technical difficulties. All members of the public who were able to express themselves urged lawmakers to vote against the proposed maps.

Juliette Hartel was one of several McBath supporters who Zoomed in from her district.

“She has done an honorable job representing the interest of the people of Georgia, as well as the people in the 6th District,” Hartel said. “Moving her district up into a dominated GOP instead of a competitive seat where it is currently is unacceptable, as is moving Bourdeaux’ district to make it strictly Democratic instead of the more competitive seat that it is now. That is not fair. It does not represent truly the voters in Georgia, and I think it’s inexcusable and reprehensible for you to do things like that.”

Another of McBath’s constituents, Mehar Nemani, said the proposed congressional map  discriminates against minority voters. This is the first year since a 2013 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that Georgia hasn’t had to secure preclearance from the Justice Department to assure compliance with the federal Voting Rights Act.

“It’s appalling to see her seat be targeted like this and gerrymandered in an attempt to gain party power,” she said. “It all ties me to the question of people versus power. The current proposed maps chose power over people. This map is nothing less than a power grab.”

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Acworth Republican state Rep. Ed Setzler forcefully challenged Nemani.

“With deepest respect, I would just say you’re factually wrong,” he said. “You think about the representation of other members, I represent a very diverse area, and I think I represent it with honor, I represent it with vigor, I represent all people in my area, no matter what their national origin or what their political preferences would be, and I think the suggestion that this map is a gerrymandered attack on the things she described is just factually, as a premise, wrong.”

The question of whether white conservatives can effectively represent communities of color was also raised by several residents of southwest Cobb County. The core of controversial, Rome-based Republican Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene’s district will remain in northwest Georgia under the plan, but it will also stretch into the largely Black, Democratic-leaning Atlanta suburb.

Anthony Whaley is one of the Powder Springs residents who would go from being represented by Republican Congressman Barry Loudermilk to Greene if the boundaries are ultimately approved by Gov. Brian Kemp.

He compared the move to “a shotgun wedding or an abusive relative moving into my house because they have no place to go to.”

“Representative Loudermilk may not be my choice to fill the seat of the 11th District, but he’s still someone who I can communicate with and can trust to be a level-headed and reasonable representative,” Whaley said.

Greene is lionized by the right and deplored by liberals for espousing conspiracy theories and railing against what she sees as Marxism in culture and government. She’s accumulated more than $50,000 in fines for defying requirements to wear a mask on the House floor.

Another south Cobb resident, DeBorah Johnson, brought up Greene’s past remarks on the 2018 Parkland, Fla. school shooting that killed 17 people.

“I just cannot come to grips to understand how Marjorie would be a good benefit for much of minority Black and brown citizens in Cobb County, Austell and Powder Springs particularly. She has no empathy for humanity and no sympathy for the dead or the living.”

Greene agreed with social media posts that referred to school shootings as staged and mocked survivors of the shooting who pushed for stricter gun laws. In February, as she was facing removal from Congressional committees over her online behavior, she said she regrets buying into conspiracy theories and said she now believes school shootings actually occurred.

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Ross Williams
Ross Williams

Before joining the Georgia Recorder, Ross Williams covered local and state government for the Marietta Daily Journal.Williams' reporting took him from City Hall to homeless camps, from the offices of business executives to the living rooms of grieving parents. His work earned recognition from the Georgia Associated Press Media Editors and the Georgia Press Association, including beat reporting, business writing and non-deadline reporting. A native of Cobb County, Williams holds a bachelor’s degree in English from Atlanta's Oglethorpe University and a master’s in journalism from Northwestern University.

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