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Redistricting in Georgia

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Redistricting in Georgia
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General information
Current legislative control:
Congressional process:
State legislature
State legislature process:
State legislature
Total seats
Congress: 14
State Senate: 56
State House: 180
Redistricting in other states
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RedistrictingState-by-state redistricting proceduresState legislative and congressional redistricting after the 2010 Census
Redistricting is the process by which new congressional and state legislative district boundaries are drawn. Each of Georgia's 14 United States Representatives and 236 state legislators are elected from political divisions called districts. District lines are redrawn every 10 years following completion of the United States Census. The federal government stipulates that districts must have nearly equal populations and must not discriminate on the basis of race or ethnicity.

Redistricting is a fiercely-contested issue, primarily due to gerrymandering, the practice of drawing district lines to favor one political party or constituency over another. Two areas of contention include the following:

Competitiveness: Political parties or incumbents sometimes draw district lines for their benefit at the expense of proportionality and fair representation. Some argue that this practice contributes to the present lack of competitive elections. Uncompetitive elections can in turn discourage participation.[1]
Race and ethnicity: District lines sometimes minimize the influence of minority voters by disproportionately consolidating them within single districts or splitting them across several districts. These practices are examples of "packing" and "cracking," respectively.[1][2][3][4]
In Georgia, congressional and state legislative district boundaries are drawn by the state legislature. Georgia's state legislature is the third-largest in the nation, with 236 state legislators.[5]


See also: Redistricting

Federal law stipulates that all districts, whether congressional or state legislative, must meet two primary criteria.

  1. Equal population: According to All About Redistricting, federal law "requires that each district have about the same population: each federal district within a state must have about the same number of people [and] each state district within a state must have about the same number of people." Specific standards for determining whether populations are sufficiently equal vary for congressional and state legislative districts. See below for further details.[6]
  2. Race and ethnicity: Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 states that district lines must not dilute the voting power of racial or ethnic minority groups. This provision "applies whether the denial is intentional, or an unintended end result. Courts essentially test whether the way that districts are drawn takes decisive political power away from a cohesive minority bloc otherwise at risk for discrimination."[6]

In most states, the legislatures are primarily responsible for both congressional and state legislative redistricting. However, reformers argue that partisan legislators are incapable of establishing fair district lines because they have a vested interest in the outcome. Instead, reformers advocate using different redistricting processes, including independent commissions or electronic methods. Opponents of these reforms argue that alternative processes are less accountable to voters, subject to partisan abuse, and perhaps unconstitutional.

State requirements


In addition to the federal criteria noted above, individual states may impose additional requirements on redistricting. Common state-level redistricting criteria are listed below. Typically, these requirements are quite flexible.

  1. Contiguity refers to the principle that all areas within a district should be "physically adjacent." A total of 49 states require that districts of at least one state legislative chamber be contiguous. A total of 23 states require that congressional districts meet contiguity requirements.[6][7]
  2. Compactness refers to the general principle that "the distance between all parts of a district" ought to be minimized. The United States Supreme Court has "construed compacted to indicate that residents have some sort of cultural cohesion in common." A total of 37 states "require their legislative districts to be reasonably compact." A total of 18 states impose similar requirements for congressional districts.[6][7]
  3. A community of interest is a "group of people in a geographical area, such as a specific region or neighborhood, who have common political, social or economic interests." A total of 24 states require that the maintenance of communities of interest be considered in the drawing of state legislative districts. A total of 13 states impose similar requirements for congressional districts.[6][7]
  4. A total of 42 states require that state legislative district lines be drawn to account for political boundaries (e.g., the limits of counties, cities and towns). A total of 19 states require that similar considerations be made in the drawing of congressional districts.[6][7]

Congressional redistricting

According to Article 1, Section 4, of the United States Constitution, the states and their legislatures have primary authority in determining the "times, places and manner" of congressional elections. Congress may also pass laws regulating congressional elections. Section 4 explicitly vests the authority to regulate congressional elections with the legislative branches of the states and the federal government and not with the executive or judicial branches.[8][9]

The Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof; but the Congress may at any time by Law make or alter such Regulations, except as to the Places of chusing Senators.[10]

—United States Constitution

Article 1, Section 2, of the United States Constitution stipulates that congressional representatives be apportioned to the states on the basis of population. There are 435 seats in the United States House of Representatives. Each state is allotted a portion of these seats based on the size of its population relative to the other states. Consequently, a state may gain seats in the House if its population grows, or lose seats if its population decreases, relative to populations in other states. In 1964, the United States Supreme Court ruled in Wesberry v. Sanders that the populations of House districts must be equal "as nearly as practicable."[11][12][6]

The equal population requirement for congressional districts is strict. According to All About Redistricting, "any district with more or fewer people than the average (also know as the 'ideal' population), must be specifically justified by a consistent state policy. And even consistent policies that cause a 1 percent spread from largest to smallest district will likely be unconstitutional."[6]

State legislative redistricting

The United States Constitution is silent on the issue of state legislative redistricting. In the mid-1960s, the United States Supreme Court issued a series of rulings in an effort to clarify standards for state legislative redistricting. In Reynolds v. Sims, the court ruled that "the Equal Protection Clause [of the United States Constitution] demands no less than substantially equal state legislative representation for all citizens, of all places as well as of all races." According to All About Redistricting, "it has become accepted that a [redistricting] plan will be constitutionally suspect if the largest and smallest districts [within a state or jurisdiction] are more than 10 percent apart."

State process

See also: State-by-state redistricting procedures

In 37 states, legislatures are primarily responsible for drawing congressional district lines. Seven states have only one congressional district each, so congressional redistricting is not necessary. Four states employ independent commissions to draw the district maps. In two states, politician commissions draw congressional district lines.

State legislative district lines are primarily the province of the state legislatures themselves in 37 states. In seven states, politician commissions draw state legislative district lines. In the remaining six states, independent commissions draw the lines.[13]

In Georgia, both congressional and state legislative district lines are drawn by the state legislature. A simple majority in each chamber is required to approve redistricting plans, which are subject to veto by the governor.[14]

The Georgia Constitution requires that state legislative districts be contiguous. There are no similar requirements for congressional districts.[14][15]

In 2011, the House redistricting committee released guidelines recommending the following for both congressional and state legislative districts:[14]

  1. prohibition of multi-member districts
  2. consideration of county and precinct boundaries
  3. compactness
  4. consideration of communities of interest

The committee also suggested that "efforts should be made to avoid the unnecessary pairing of incumbents" within single districts. These are not legal requirements; as such, they may be altered at any time.[14]

District maps

Congressional districts

See also: United States congressional delegations from Georgia
Click the above image to enlarge it.
Source: The National Atlas of the United States of America

Georgia comprises 14 congressional districts. The map to the right depicts Georgia's congressional district lines as drawn following the 2010 United States Census. The table below lists Georgia's current House representatives.

Georgia delegation to the United States House of Representatives
NamePartyPositionAssumed officeTerm ends
Austin ScottRepublican PartyDistrict 8 2011January 3, 2017
Barry LoudermilkRepublican PartyDistrict 11 2015January 3, 2017
David ScottDemocratic PartyDistrict 13 2003January 3, 2017
Doug CollinsRepublican PartyDistrict 9 2013January 3, 2017
Earl "Buddy" CarterRepublican PartyDistrict 1 2015January 3, 2017
Henry C. Johnson Jr.Democratic PartyDistrict 4 2007January 3, 2017
Jody HiceRepublican PartyDistrict 10 2015January 3, 2015
John LewisDemocratic PartyDistrict 5 1987January 3, 2017
Lynn A. WestmorelandRepublican PartyDistrict 3 2007January 3, 2017
Rick AllenRepublican PartyDistrict 12 2015January 3, 2017
Rob WoodallRepublican PartyDistrict 7 2011January 3, 2017
Sanford D. Bishop, JrDemocratic PartyDistrict 2 1993January 3, 2017
Tom GravesRepublican PartyDistrict 14 2010January 3, 2017
Tom PriceRepublican PartyDistrict 6 2005January 3, 2017

State legislative maps

See also: Georgia State Senate and Georgia House of Representatives

Georgia comprises 56 state Senate districts and 180 state House districts. State senators and representatives are elected every two years in partisan elections. To access the state legislative district maps approved following the 2010 United States Census, click here.[16]


There are conflicting opinions regarding the correlation between partisan gerrymandering and electoral competitiveness. Some critics contend that the dominant redistricting methods result in a lack of competitive elections. Jennifer Clark, a political science professor at the University of Houston, said, "The redistricting process has important consequences for voters. In some states, incumbent legislators work together to protect their own seats, which produces less competition in the political system. Voters may feel as though they do not have a meaningful alternative to the incumbent legislator. Legislators who lack competition in their districts have less incentive to adhere to their constituents’ opinions."[17]

Some question the impact of redistricting on electoral competitiveness. In 2006, Emory University professors Alan Abramowitz, Brad Alexander and Matthew Gunning wrote, "[Some] studies have concluded that redistricting has a neutral or positive effect on competition. ... [It] is often the case that partisan redistricting has the effect of reducing the safety of incumbents, thereby making elections more competitive."[18]

The individuals involved in redistricting must balance the desire for increased competitiveness with other principles that might conflict with that goal, such as compactness, contiguity, and maintaining communities of interest. For instance, it may at times be impossible to draw a competitive district that is both compact and preserves communities of interest.

In 2011, James Cottrill, a professor of political science at Santa Clara University, published a study of the effect of "non-legislative approaches" to redistricting on the competitiveness of congressional elections. Cottrill found that "particular types of [non-legislative approaches] encourage the appearance in congressional elections of experienced and well-financed challengers." Cottrill cautioned, however, that non-legislative approaches "contribute neither to decreased vote percentages when incumbents win elections nor to a greater probability of their defeat."[19]


See also: Margin of victory analysis for the 2014 congressional elections

In 2014, Ballotpedia analyzed the margins of victory in all 435 contests for the United States House of Representatives. Ballotpedia found that the average margin of victory was 35.8 percent, compared to 31.8 percent in 2012. A total of 318 elections (73 percent of all House elections) were won by margins of victory of 20 percent or more. Only 26 elections (6 percent of the total) were won by margins of victory of 5 percent or less. An election is deemed competitive if it was won by a margin of victory of 5 percent or less. See the table below for further details.

Note: The data below are provided only for informational purposes. It should be noted that there are conflicting opinions regarding the correlation between redistricting and competitiveness. A variety of factors at the local, state and federal levels can impact electoral competitiveness.

In Georgia, 12 elections for the United States House of Representatives were won by margins of victory of 20 percent or greater. The smallest margin of victory occurred in District 12, where Rick Allen (R) won by 9.6 percent. Seven candidates won unopposed. The average margin of victory was 64.8 percent. See the table below for full details.

Electoral margins of victory in 2014 United States House of Representatives elections, Georgia
District Winner Margin of victory Total votes cast Top opponent
District 1 Republican Party Earl "Buddy" Carter 21.8% 156,512 Brian Reese
District 2 Democratic Party Sanford Bishop 18.3% 162,936 Greg Duke
District 3 Republican Party Lynn Westmoreland 100% 156,277 Unopposed
District 4 Democratic Party Hank Johnson 100% 161,211 Unopposed
District 5 Democratic Party John Lewis 100% 170,326 Unopposed
District 6 Republican Party Thomas Price 32.1% 210,504 Robert Montigel
District 7 Republican Party Rob Woodall 30.8% 173,669 Thomas Wight
District 8 Republican Party Austin Scott 100% 129,938 Unopposed
District 9 Republican Party Doug Collins 61.3% 181,047 David Vogel
District 10 Republican Party Jody Hice 33% 196,480 Ken Dious
District 11 Republican Party Barry Loudermilk 100% 161,532 Unopposed
District 12 Republican Party Rick Allen 9.6% 166,713 John Barrow
District 13 Democratic Party David Scott 100% 159,445 Unopposed
District 14 Republican Party Tom Graves 100% 118,782 Unopposed

State legislatures

See also: Margin of victory in state legislative elections

In 2014, Ballotpedia conducted a study of competitive districts in 44 state legislative chambers between 2010 and 2012. Ballotpedia found that there were 61 fewer competitive general election contests in 2012 than in 2010. Of the 44 chambers studied, 25 experienced a net loss in the number of competitive elections. A total of 17 experienced a net increase. In total, 16.2 percent of the 3,842 legislative contests studied saw competitive general elections in 2010. In 2012, only 14.6 percent of the contests studied saw competitive general elections. An election was considered competitive if it was won by a margin of victory of 5 percent or less. An election was considered mildly competitive if it was won by a margin of victory between 5 and 10 percent. For more information regarding this report, including methodology, click here.

Note: These data are provided only for informational purposes. It should be noted that there are conflicting opinions regarding the correlation between redistricting and competitiveness. A variety of factors at the local, state and federal levels can impact electoral competitiveness.

There were four competitive elections for the Georgia House of Representatives in 2012, compared to one in 2010. There were four mildly competitive state House races in 2012, compared to five in 2010. This amounted to a net gain of two competitive elections.

There were no competitive elections for the Georgia State Senate in 2012, the same as in 2010. There was one mildly competitive state Senate race in 2012, compared to zero in 2010. This amounted to a net gain of one competitive election.

Partisan composition

The tables below summarize the current partisan composition of the Georgia House of Representatives and the Georgia State Senate.


SLP badge.png
Party As of April 2015
     Democratic Party 59
     Republican Party 119
     Independent 1
     Vacancy 1
Total 180


Party As of April 2015
     Democratic Party 18
     Republican Party 38
Total 56

Race and ethnicity

Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 mandates that electoral district lines cannot be drawn in such a manner as to "improperly dilute minorities' voting power."

No voting qualification or prerequisite to voting, or standard, practice, or procedure shall be imposed or applied by any State or political subdivision to deny or abridge the right of any citizen of the United States to vote on account of race or color.[10]

—Voting Rights Act of 1965[20]

States and other political subdivisions may create majority-minority districts in order to comply with Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. A majority-minority district is a district in which minority groups comprise a majority of the district's total population. As of 2013, Georgia was home to five congressional majority-minority districts.[2][3][4]

Proponents of majority-minority districts maintain that these districts are a necessary hindrance to the practice of "cracking." Cracking occurs when a constituency is divided between several districts in order to prevent it from achieving a majority in any one district. In addition, supporters argue that the drawing of majority-minority districts has resulted in an increased number of minority representatives in state legislatures and Congress.[2][3][4]

Critics, meanwhile, contend that the establishment of majority-minority districts results in "packing." Packing occurs when a constituency or voting group is placed within a single district, thereby minimizing its influence in other districts. Because minority groups tend to vote Democratic, critics argue that majority-minority districts ultimately present an unfair advantage to Republicans by consolidating Democratic votes into a smaller number of districts.[2][3][4]


See also: Demographics of congressional districts as of 2013 and Demographics of congressional districts as of 2013 (as percentages)

The tables below provide demographic information for each of Georgia's congressional districts as of 2013. At that time, the population of the largest congressional district, District 7, totaled 712,166, and the population of the smallest, District 14, totaled 692,831, which represented a difference of 2.8 percent.[21]

Demographics of Georgia's congressional districts (as percentages)
District Hispanic White Black Native
Asian Pacific
Other Multiple
Georgia 8.93% 55.41% 30.28% 0.19% 3.35% 0.04% 0.22% 1.59%
District 1 6.2% 60.4% 29.5% 0.3% 1.6% 0.1% 0.2% 1.7%
District 2 4.6% 41.5% 51% 0.2% 1.1% 0% 0.2% 1.4%
District 3 5.3% 67.6% 23.3% 0.2% 1.7% 0% 0.2% 1.7%
District 4 9.3% 26.7% 57.1% 0.1% 4.6% 0% 0.3% 1.7%
District 5 7.8% 28.4% 58% 0.2% 3.9% 0% 0.1% 1.6%
District 6 12.5% 63% 12.5% 0.2% 9.6% 0% 0.2% 1.9%
District 7 18.7% 49.1% 17.9% 0.2% 11.8% 0% 0.3% 1.9%
District 8 5.9% 61.2% 29.8% 0.1% 1.3% 0% 0.2% 1.4%
District 9 11.9% 78.7% 6.9% 0.2% 1.2% 0% 0.2% 0.9%
District 10 5.1% 66.4% 24.7% 0.1% 2% 0% 0.1% 1.6%
District 11 11.2% 68.6% 14.9% 0.3% 3% 0.1% 0.3% 1.7%
District 12 5.4% 56.7% 34.3% 0.2% 1.6% 0.1% 0.2% 1.5%
District 13 10.3% 29.8% 55% 0.2% 2.5% 0% 0.3% 1.9%
District 14 10.5% 78.4% 8.6% 0.2% 0.8% 0% 0.2% 1.2%
Source: United States Census Bureau, "2009-2013 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates," accessed April 8, 2015
Demographics of Georgia's congressional districts
District Hispanic White Black Native
Asian Pacific
Other Multiple
Georgia 875,849 5,435,939 2,970,755 18,330 328,720 3,925 21,147 155,752 9,810,417
District 1 43,469 425,055 207,602 1,847 11,281 683 1,263 12,169 703,369
District 2 32,135 288,172 354,876 1,044 7,421 255 1,227 10,060 695,190
District 3 36,529 470,356 162,051 1,263 11,808 234 1,176 11,909 695,326
District 4 65,763 188,829 403,275 1,003 32,576 267 2,284 11,980 705,977
District 5 55,327 200,585 410,010 1,280 27,251 158 1,058 11,396 707,065
District 6 88,039 444,007 87,988 1,162 67,987 314 1,711 13,345 704,553
District 7 132,844 349,748 127,801 1,386 84,060 244 2,344 13,739 712,166
District 8 41,311 426,406 207,764 699 8,949 96 1,627 9,767 696,619
District 9 83,242 549,117 48,021 1,239 8,171 149 1,050 6,529 697,518
District 10 35,667 465,355 173,278 873 13,954 191 621 10,905 700,844
District 11 78,778 480,547 104,418 2,138 20,688 370 2,320 11,695 700,954
District 12 37,919 395,498 239,131 1,638 11,049 526 1,326 10,527 697,614
District 13 71,980 208,923 385,126 1,207 17,750 298 1,974 13,133 700,391
District 14 72,846 543,341 59,414 1,551 5,775 140 1,166 8,598 692,831
Source: United States Census Bureau, "2009-2013 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates," accessed April 8, 2015

Redistricting after the 2010 census

See also: Redistricting in Georgia after the 2010 census

Congressional redistricting, 2010

Following the 2010 United States Census, Georgia gained one congressional seat. At the time of redistricting, Republicans controlled both chambers of the state legislature. On August 13, 2011, the legislature approved a new congressional map. It was signed into law on September 6, 2011.[14][22]

The Republican legislature’s goals in the remap were threefold. First, Republicans were able to add a new safe seat thanks to rapid growth along North Georgia’s I-85 corridor, taking in much of the 9th District. Second, they were able to shore up freshman Austin Scott in South Georgia’s 8th District by removing downtown Macon and thereby giving nearby Democrat Sanford Bishop’s 2nd District an African-American majority. Third, as their top priority, Republicans sought to target Augusta Democrat John Barrow, the only remaining white Democrat from the Deep South, by cutting Savannah’s black neighborhoods out of his 12th District.[10]

—The Almanac of American Politics

Although Barrow retained his seat in the 2012 election, he was unable to do so in 2014. Republican challenger Rick Allen won Barrow's seat by 9.6 percent.

State legislative redistricting, 2010

On August 23, 2010, the state legislature approved new state legislative district lines. The maps were signed into law on August 24, 2011. On February 23, 2012, the legislature approved amended House district lines, which were in turn signed by the governor. On March 21, 2012, the legislature passed revised Senate district lines, which the governor signed into law on April 13, 2012.[14]

The revised Senate maps did not take effect until 2014.[14]

Redistricting after the 2000 census

In the 2000 redistricting cycle, Democrats controlled both chambers of the state legislature. According to Michael Barone and Chuck McCutcheon, writing for The Almanac of American Politics, "Democrats drew some of the most convoluted [congressional] lines in the country."[14][22]

In 2005, right after they took over the state legislature, Republicans threw out Democrats’ contorted 2001 boundaries (which had failed to stave off Republican gains anyway) and created a more straightforward map that preserved three African-American metro Atlanta seats but created an 8-5 majority in the delegation by 2011.[10]

—The Almanac of American Politics

The state legislative maps were also the source of considerable controversy. The maps were challenged in federal court.[14]

[The] state legislative plans were struck down, on equal population grounds. When the state legislature failed to pass a new state legislative plan, the federal court produced its own, valid for the 2004 elections. In 2006, the state legislature adjusted several state Senate districts; it is not clear whether these adjustments were submitted for preclearance. The adjusted state Senate plan was challenged in federal court, and upheld.[10]

—All About Redistricting

Redistricting ballot measures

Voting on
elections and campaigns
Ballot measures
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Not on ballot
See also: Redistricting measures on the ballot and List of Georgia ballot measures

Ballotpedia has tracked no ballot measures relating to redistricting in Georgia.

Recent news

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See also

External links

Additional reading


  1. 1.0 1.1 All About Redistricting, "Why does it matter?" accessed April 8, 2015
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Indy Week, "Cracked, stacked and packed: Initial redistricting maps met with skepticism and dismay," June 29, 2011
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 The Atlantic, "How the Voting Rights Act Hurts Democrats and Minorities," June 17, 2013
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 Redrawing the Lines, "The Role of Section 2 - Majority Minority Districts," accessed April 6, 2015
  5. National Conference of State Legislatures, "Number of Legislators and Length of Terms in Years," March 11, 2013
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 6.5 6.6 6.7 All About Redistricting, "Where are the lines drawn?" accessed April 9, 2015
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 FairVote, "Redistricting Glossary," accessed April 9, 2015
  8. The Heritage Guide to the Constitution, "Election Regulations," accessed April 13, 2015
  9. Brookings, "Redistricting and the United States Constitution," March 22, 2011
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 10.3 10.4 Note: This text is quoted verbatim from the original source. Any inconsistencies are attributed to the original source.
  11. Brennan Center for Justice, "A Citizen's Guide to Redistricting," accessed March 25, 2015
  12. The Constitution of the United States of America, "Article 1, Section 2," accessed March 25, 2015
  13. All About Redistricting, "Who draws the lines?" accessed March 25, 2015
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 14.3 14.4 14.5 14.6 14.7 14.8 All About Redistricting, "Georgia," accessed April 23, 2015
  15. Georgia Constitution, "Article 3, Section 2," accessed April 23, 2015
  16. Georgia General Assembly, "Legislative and Congressional Reapportionment Office," accessed April 23, 2015
  17. The Daily Cougar, "Redistricting will affect November election," October 16, 2012
  18. The Journal of Politics, "Incumbency, Redistricting, and the Decline of Competition in U.S. House Elections," February 2006
  19. Polity, "The Effects of Non-Legislative Approaches to Redistricting on Competition in Congressional Elections," October 3, 2011
  20. Yale Law School, The Avalon Project, "Voting Rights Act of 1965; August 6, 1965," accessed April 6, 2015
  21. United States Census Bureau, "2009-2013 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates," accessed April 8, 2015
  22. 22.0 22.1 Barone, M. & McCutcheon, C. (2013). The almanac of American politics 2014 : the senators, the representatives and the governors : their records and election results, their states and districts. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.