Sen. John Kennedy, chair of the Senate Redistricting Committee, said the GOP map is fair to all Georgians. Ross Williams/Georgia Recorder
Georgia’s once-a-decade redistricting process could reach its conclusion Monday as the Senate passed a new Congressional map plan, the third and final piece of the special session Friday afternoon on a 32-21 party line vote.
Both chambers have already approved maps to redraw the state House and Senate boundaries, and the House Redistricting Committee gave its approval to the new Congressional map Saturday. If it meets the full House’s approval, lawmakers could be back in their districts by Tuesday.
The plan makes significant changes to the current map, most notably creating a northward shift in Democratic Congresswoman Lucy McBath’s suburban Atlanta district into more conservative territory that will likely give the GOP a new member in Georgia’s Congressional delegation, resulting in a split of nine Republicans and five Democrats.
Senate Democrats blasted the plan as a Republican attempt to cling to power in a changing state by targeting a Black congresswoman.
“Georgians, now of all backgrounds and identities, are taking power for themselves,” said Sen. Jen Jordan, an Atlanta Democrat and candidate for state attorney general. “And more and more of our elected officials are starting to actually look like and reflect the population of this state. Now, it didn’t happen overnight. It happened as a result of decades of organizing and fighting, and look, that scares Republicans, not because it hurts their constituents or because it results in bad policy, it just leaves them with less power. So what do you do when you’re losing or you’re behind? Well, you just change the rules.”
Senators also reiterated threats to sue over the map, which they say will diminish the power of minority voters.
Augusta Democratic Sen. Harold Jones accused the Republican mapmakers of rushing through the process and not bothering to make sure the districts comply with the Voting Rights Act.
“We just ran through it, because we were taking the position ‘Oh, it helps them versus us,’ he said. “But it’s not like that at all. It helps all of us. And if we believe that, if we truly believe it, not just words, but if we truly believed it, we’d have (gone) through this process thoroughly. Because we wouldn’t have been afraid of the answers, because we would have known through those other cases that it’s here to protect all of us. But we don’t truly believe it, at least the majority doesn’t.”
The Congressional map was released Wednesday, hours before a pair of back-to-back public hearings were held to discuss it, and it passed the Senate Redistricting Committee hearing Thursday.
Republicans argue that the timeline was compressed because of COVID-related delays at the U.S. Census Bureau and Georgians had plenty of opportunity to weigh in at a series of hearings over the summer and through an online portal.
If Democrats had issues with the process, they should have brought them up sooner, said Sen. John Kennedy, a Macon Republican who chairs the Senate redistricting committee.
“Where were those comments back when they would have made a difference?” he said in a floor speech. “Where’s the email from the Democrats saying, ‘Hey, we need to have a better model. We need to make this easier for public access. Let’s correct it in a certain way. Let’s do it differently.’ No, no, don’t do it that way, my goodness, then that might reveal that the process we’ve got is fair. Let’s wait till it’s game over and we’re going down and we’re just going to complain about the way the Republicans did it, but we’re not going to offer any corrective measure. Does that ring of any credibility to anybody?”
Kennedy also chided the Democrats for what he said was an attempt to protect McBath’s seat rather than letting the voters decide.
“Democrats are asking for a process to protect incumbents,” he said. “We heard the senator from the 6th (Jordan) say ‘The Republicans are trying to eliminate her seat,’ and all of the other comments that were said, suggested that what we should have done was to have protected certain people — of course, the ones they’re talking about are Democrat incumbents — but it’s to protect someone. Folks, that’s not what this process is about. It’s not about the person in the seat right now. Because whoever it is won’t be there very long. It’s about making sure of the fair, legal, proper process for the voters that live in that district to choose.”
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