Difference between revisions of "Redistricting in Georgia"

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With respect to redistricting, the VRA was designed to ensure that minority voters are not spread across white districts and are able to elect candidates of their choice. However, Abrams and others argued that the plan was an attempt to concentrate Democratic voters and lessen their wider influence.<ref name=ajc1/>
 
With respect to redistricting, the VRA was designed to ensure that minority voters are not spread across white districts and are able to elect candidates of their choice. However, Abrams and others argued that the plan was an attempt to concentrate Democratic voters and lessen their wider influence.<ref name=ajc1/>
  
Republicans defended the House plan, noting that it also paired eight Republican incumbents. In addition, they argued that map was less partisan than the Democratically-drawn 2001 plans which paired many more incumbents. The 2001 map introduced multi-member districts which were ultimately reversed after a multi-year controversy (see [http://ballotpedia.org/wiki/index.php/Redistricting_in_Georgia#History History] below).<ref>[http://www.ajc.com/news/maps-released-as-lawmakers-1102673.html ''Atlanta Journal-Constitution'', "Maps released as lawmakers learn their fate," August 12, 2011]</ref> <ref>[http://blogs.ajc.com/political-insider-jim-galloway/2011/08/12/cloud-reporting-alert-tell-us-who-got-the-shaft-in-house-senate/ ''Atlanta Journal-Constitution,'' "Who got the shaft in House, Senate redistricting?," August 12, 2011]</ref>
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Republicans defended the House plan, noting that it also paired eight Republican incumbents. In addition, they argued that map was less partisan than the Democratically-drawn 2001 plans which paired many more incumbents. The 2001 map introduced multi-member districts which were ultimately reversed after a multi-year controversy (see [http://ballotpedia.org/wiki/index.php/Redistricting_in_Georgia#History History] below).<ref>[http://www.ajc.com/news/maps-released-as-lawmakers-1102673.html ''Atlanta Journal-Constitution'', "Maps released as lawmakers learn their fate," August 12, 2011]</ref><ref>[http://blogs.ajc.com/political-insider-jim-galloway/2011/08/12/cloud-reporting-alert-tell-us-who-got-the-shaft-in-house-senate/ ''Atlanta Journal-Constitution,'' "Who got the shaft in House, Senate redistricting?," August 12, 2011]</ref>
  
 
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Revision as of 11:02, 24 February 2014

Georgia

BP Redistricting logo.jpg

General Information
Process:   Legislative Committee
Deadline:   None
Total Seats to be Drawn
Congress:   14
State Senate:   56
State House:   180
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This page is about redistricting in Georgia.

Georgia gained one seat from the reapportionment after the 2010 census. The state population grew to over 9.7 million residents, an increase of 18.3 percent.[1] The 2011 redistricting cycle was the first in Georgia's history where the GOP controlled the redistricting process.[2]

Process

The Georgia General Assembly is responsible for redistricting. In the House, the task falls on the Legislative and Congressional Reapportionment Committee. In the State Senate, it falls to the Reapportionment and Redistricting Committee.[3][4][5] Georgia is 1 of 16 states that must receive some approval from the U.S. Justice Department via the Voting Rights Act.

Control of committee appointments

In late January 2011, several lawmakers attempted to wrest control of membership on the Administrative Affairs Committee away from Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle (R) and give it to President pro tem Tommie Williams (R). The move would have given Williams greater control over the redistricting committees. Although Williams and Cagle share partisan interests, Cagle and House Speaker David Ralston (R) are both from northern Georgia, raising concerns about fair representation for the southern portion of the state. Governor Nathan Deal (R) also lives in the northern part of the state.

However, Cagle blocked the measure by refusing to call it to a vote. A compromise bill was ultimately passed which, though it gave Williams the chairmanship of Administrative Affairs, allowed Cagle to appoint the majority its members. In addition, the bill contained the following clause:

By agreement with the appropriate officer or officers of the House of Representatives, the President of the Senate may authorize the establishment and employment of staff for newly created joint offices of the General Assembly.

Under the rule, Cagle and Ralston would jointly control membership of the redistricting committees.[6]

New office created

On February 1, 2011, Republican leaders announced the creation of a Legislative and Congressional Reapportionment Office. Redistricting was previously done though a state contract with the University of Georgia's Carl Vinson Institute of Government.[7] The new office employed many of the same people who worked on redistricting at the Carl Vinson Institute. GOP counsel Ann Lewis and her law firm provided legal guidance for the office.

Many Democrats appeared to be in the dark about the new office. House Democratic leader Stacey Abrams said, "That they did not include Democrats in this decision raises some serious questions about transparency and accountability."[7] Senate Democratic Leader Robert Brown called the news "very much a surprise." He went on to say, "It's obviously not nonpartisan. I don't know what this is. I've heard rumor after rumor about redistricting. We're not a part of this process."[8]

The Senate Reapportionment and Redistricting Committee held its first meeting of the year on April 13. It remained clear that partisan disputes regarding the new office were not over. During the meeting Sen. Vincent Fort (D) raised questions about Dan O'Connor, an office aide, whose background was not made public. Fort stated, “Mr. O’Connor is either being paid now or will be paid by public dollars. I don’t want to know what he had for lunch and I don’t want to know what his favorite football team is. All I want to know what his public functions have been prior to his being hired.”[9] The new office is slated to begin drawing new maps on April 15.[10]

Calls for a second new office

On February 7, 2011, Sen. Horacena Tate, Chair of the Senate Democratic Caucus Reapportionment Committee, sent a letter to House Speaker David Ralston and Senate President Pro Tempore Tommie Williams regarding Democrats concerns.[11] In it she called for a second reapportionment office, stating, "In order to ensure that the reapportionment process proceeds in a manner that is fair to all Georgians, I ask that you establish and provide commensurate funding for a separate reapportionment office to provide the necessary consulting, legal and other services for the senators in the minority party."[12]

Tate received a letter on February 9, signed by Williams and Ralston, which rejected her request for a second office. The letter referred to the issue as "a misunderstanding" and said that the new office would serve all members of the General Assembly.[13] Georgia Congressman Jack Kingston (R) referred to the Democrats' complaints as sour grapes, saying, "You might tilt your side here or there to protect an incumbent or two, but I think the Democrats are being a bit premature."[14]

Georgia threatens to bypass DOJ

Although Georgia's Congressional and legislative maps are usually reviewed by the Department of Justice, state Republicans looked to sidestep DOJ review.[15] As an alternative to Justice Department review, the Voting Rights Act permits states to file a declaratory judgement action in the US District Court for the District of Columbia. A panel of judges would then review the maps. The move was intended to avoid what many state Republicans believed was a biased Obama-appointed DOJ. Such a move would not have been unprecedented since Democratic Gov. Roy Barnes similarly bypassed the Ashcroft Department of Justice in 2001.[16]

Democrats call for early release of plans

State Democrats called for an early release of proposed redistricting plans 60 days before the August 15 special session. Democrats argued that this would give the public a chance to comment on the GOP-drawn maps. Representative Roger Lane (R) and Senator Mitch Seabaugh (R), chairmen of the House and Senate redistricting committees, promised to keep the process fair and open.[17] Legislative plans were ultimately released on August 12, 2011 and Congressional plans on August 22, 2011.

Leadership

Senate

The partisan breakdown for the Senate Reapportionment and Redistricting Committee was 12 Republicans to 4 Democrats. The rest of the membership was as follows:

Republican Party Republicans (12)

Democratic Party Democrats (4)

House

The partisan breakdown of the House Legislative and Congressional Reapportionment Committee was 14 Republicans to 8 Democrats. Membership was as follows:

Republican Party Republicans (14)

Democratic Party Democrats (8)

Public Meetings

According to Sen. Charlie Bethel, the Legislative and Congressional Reapportionment Committees were to hold several joint public hearings across the state.[18] The first meeting was held on May 16 in Athens. Residents argued that the city had been unfairly divided into two State Senate districts, eliminating their Democratic representative. Republicans on the committee assured attendees that the process would be fair and legal.[19] The twelfth and final meeting was held on June 30. Residents expressed concerns that full proposals had not yet been released. Video of the hearings can be found here.

Democrats to host meetings

Democrats in the Georgia House of Representatives planned to host their own redistricting meetings. The hearings primarily took place in rural areas and, according to the organizers, were scheduled so that working people could more easily attend.[20] Democrats also complained that the short notice given for the July 20 committee meetings did not allow them enough time to prepare and submit proposals.[21] The full schedule for the Democratic redistricting meetings can be found here.

Legislative committees adopt principles

On July 20, the House and Senate committees tasked with drafting Georgia's new political maps adopted several principles to guide the redistricting process. The House committee adopted the principles unanimously; the Senate committee adopted the principles along party lines, 8-3. The principles were as follows:[22]

  • All full and formal committee meetings would be open to the public.
  • Documents/maps would only become public when presented to the joint committee.

Census results

On March 16, 2011, the Census Bureau shipped Georgia's local census data to the governor and legislative leaders. This data guided redistricting for state and local offices. The data is publicly available for download. [23]

Under the new figures, State Senate districts were to contain approximately 173,000 people, House districts approximately 54,000.[24]

Given shifts in population, southwest Georgia was predicted to lose at least four House seats and two Senate seats.[25] Demographic changes will also complicate the process.[26]

City/County population changes

These tables show the change in population in the five largest incorporated places and counties in Georgia from 2000-2010.[27]

Top Five most populous cities
Incorporated place 2000 Population 2010 Population Percent Change
Atlanta city 416,474 420,003 0.8%
Augusta-Richmond County consolidated government 199,775 200,549 0.4%
Columbus city 186,291 189,885 1.9%
Savannah city 131,510 136,286 3.6%
Athens-Clarke County unified government 101,489 116,714 15.0%
Top Five most populous counties
County 2000 Population 2010 Population Percent Change
Fulton 816,006 920,581 12.8%
Gwinnett 588,448 805,321 36.9%
DeKalb 665,865 691,893 3.9%
Cobb 607,751 688,078 13.2%
Chatham 232,048 265,128 14.3%

Congressional Maps

Following the 2010 elections, Republicans controlled eight of the Georgia's 13 congressional districts. Three of the five Democratic districts were in the Atlanta area and seen as safe seats for Democrats. The remaining two districts, held by U.S. Reps. John Barrow and Sanford Bishop, were thought to be likely targets for Republican redistricting efforts. However, both districts had large minority populations. As such, gerrymandering these districts would have likely triggered legal challenges under the Voting Rights Act.[28]

Figure 1: This map shows the Georgia Congressional Districts after the 2000 census.

University of Georgia political science professor Charles Bullock predicted a possible population swap between Districts 8 and 2, represented by Austin Scott (R) and Sanford Bishop (D), in order to increase the likelihood of re-election for both incumbents.[29]

Many believed the new 14th Congressional District would likely be in the northern area of Metro Atlanta and dominated by Republicans.[30] Further speculation suggested that the district would be drawn in the Gainesville area, northeast of Atlanta. Gainesville grew by 25% in the past decade.[31]

North v. South

The majority of the population growth in Georgia took place in the northern half of the state. This, according to University of Georgia professor Charles Bullock, would greatly affect how the state is governed at both the federal and state level. As new districts were likely to emerge in the northern half of the state, this would give it more leverage over policy. At the state level, Bullock expected South Georgia to lose at least two Senate seats and at least six House seats.[32]

Congressional maps released

On August 22, 2011, Georgia Republican leadership released their proposed Congressional redistricting map. Due to population growth, Georgia garnered a 14th Congressional district following the 2010 census. The new district, according to the plan, was be located in the northwestern part of the state. U.S. Rep. Tom Graves (R) was drawn into the new district, leaving his current 9th District seat open in 2012. The new 9th District leaned Republican. In addition, the plan displaced US Rep. John Barrow (D), but Barrow (who had been displaced before) planned to move in order to remain in the 12th District. US Rep. Sanford Bishop's (D) district became a majority-minority district. Also, U.S. Rep. Phil Gingrey's (R) 11th District picked up part of Atlanta. Overall, the plan was expected to bolster the Republican majority in the state's Congressional delegation.[33]

Opponents of the plan reacted strongly. US Rep. John Lewis called the plan "an affront to the spirit and the letter of the Voting Rights Act," referring to the chunk of Atlanta moved to District 11. Barrow, displaced under the plan, argued that "the folks in Atlanta have put politics above the interests of the people I represent." Kelli Persons, Program Manager for the Georgia League of Women Voters, contended that legislators largely disregarded the public input given at redistricting meetings.[33]

 Georgia Redistricting: Proposed Congressional Plan[34] 

House amends, approves plan

On August 25, the Georgia House of Representatives approved the Republican redistricting proposal (HB 20EX), 110-60 along party lines. The plan was amended to keep a bigger portion of Fayette County within the 3rd District. As a consequence, portions of Henry and Muscogee Counties were shifted out of the 3rd. The 1st District also gained Moody Air Force Base, resulting in shifts in the 9th and 12th Districts. The plan moved to the State Senate, where it was expected to be approved without amendment.[35]

 Georgia Redistricting: House-Approved Congressional Plan[36] 

Senate approves plan

On August 31, the Georgia State Senate approved the state's Congressional maps (HB 20EX), 34-21 along party lines. The plan then moved to Governor Nathan Deal (R). U.S. Rep. John Barrow (D), targeted under the new plan, criticized lawmakers for needlessly changing his district. He noted that his district was very close to the target population before legislators remapped it, drawing him out of his former district. Barrow planned to move in order to run for the district in 2012. Republicans, however, defended the plan, calling it fair and legal. The state was expected to submit the plan to the DOJ for pre-approval by October 1, 2011.[37][38]

Special session lobbying

According to financial disclosure forms, lobbyists spent nearly $50,000 a week during the two week special session. Although lobbyists spent about $125,000 per week during the regular session, essentially only one issue, redistricting, was on the table during the special session. [39]

Deal signs maps

On September 7, Governor Nathan Deal (R) signed Georgia's Congressional redistricting maps. Upon signing the maps, Deal said, "The Legislature has drawn districts that are compact, that keep communities of interest together and that visually make sense. Additionally, these maps honor the guidelines we must follow under federal law." The Governor's press release on the signing can be found here.

Plans submitted for approval, challenges VRA

On October 6, Georgia officials filed the state’s redistricting plans with the federal government for approval under the Voting Rights Act. The VRA permits states to pursue approval with either the Department of Justice or the US District Court for DC. Georgia officials opted to pursue both options with the intent of dropping the legal action if the DOJ approves the plans. North Carolina and Texas were among the other states who took this approach.[40]

As part of its suit for approval in the DC District Court, Georgia challenged the part of the Voting Rights Act that requires states with a history of discrimination to get new maps and election laws pre-cleared by the Department of Justice or the DC District Court. Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens argued that the state was being unfairly targeted based on discrimination that no longer existed. However, House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams (D) argued that electoral discrimination was still a problem in the state. Georgia joined Alabama and Louisiana in challenging the statute.[41]

House approves revisions

Georgia representatives approved revisions to the state's legislative redistricting plan. The intent of the revisions was to reorganize districts in Hall County. At the time, the county was divided among seven House districts -- reduced to four under the revised plan. Democrats objected to re-opening the redistricting process (which would have required DOJ approval of the revisions) and some Republicans asked for other changes to be made. The modifications passed the House on February 3 by 101-53 margin.[42][43]

Legislative maps

House drafts expected

Drafts of new Georgia House of Representatives districts were expected on August 12. As the release date neared, the controversy over the new political lines intensified. A common theme in 2011 redistricting, the creation of Voting Rights Act districts, polarized Georgia lawmakers. House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams (D) argued that Republicans were attempting to pack black voters and "purge" white Democrats. Chairman of the House Redistricting Committee Roger Lane (R) said the claim lacked "any validity."[44][45]

Plan released

On Friday, August 12, Georgia Republicans released their legislative redistricting plans, redrawing the state's House and Senate districts. However, the proposal soon met furious objections from the state's Democratic minority. Calling the plan a "roll-back of voting rights in Georgia," House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams declared that the state party would mount a 2012 primary challenge against any Democratic legislator that broke ranks to support the plan.[46] According to Abrams, an African-American, the Republican plan was an attempt to "purge" white Democrats by creating seven additional Voting Rights Act districts. She noted that six of the 12 Democratic representatives paired under the plan were white. In addition, the Senate plan also paired two incumbent Democrats, one black and one white.[47]

With respect to redistricting, the VRA was designed to ensure that minority voters are not spread across white districts and are able to elect candidates of their choice. However, Abrams and others argued that the plan was an attempt to concentrate Democratic voters and lessen their wider influence.[47]

Republicans defended the House plan, noting that it also paired eight Republican incumbents. In addition, they argued that map was less partisan than the Democratically-drawn 2001 plans which paired many more incumbents. The 2001 map introduced multi-member districts which were ultimately reversed after a multi-year controversy (see History below).[48][49]

 Georgia Redistricting: Legislative Redistricting Plans[50] 

Plans clear legislative committees

On August 16, legislative redistricting plans cleared the House and Senate redistricting committees. Both passed along party lines. Democrats submitted a substitute proposal intended to pair fewer incumbents, but it was rejected. Democrats also accused Republicans of changing legislative rules to rush the process.[51] The full House and Senate considered the plans on August 18, 2011. In the House, 90 minutes were allotted to each side to debate the map. Floor amendments were not permitted. Each side was to pass its own plan then send it to the other chamber for concurrence.[52]

House, Senate pass legislative plans

On August 18, the Georgia House of Representatives and the Georgia State Senate approved their respective redistricting plans. According to state Democrats, the maps were designed to the give the Republicans a super-majority. This would allow them to pass constitutional amendments without bipartisan support. Senate bill sponsor Mitch Seabaugh (R) disputed the charges, saying that it was not his goal to create a Republican super-majority. Seabaugh added that the maps will "undo the shame" placed on Georgia after the Democrats' 2001 redistricting efforts. Citing the public hearings held across the state, proponents called the process fair and open. However, opponents contended that the GOP abused the Voting Rights Act to favor Republican candidates. A legal battle over the plans was not unlikely given the multi-year struggle over the 2001 maps. The plans then proceeded to opposite chambers for concurrence.[53]

Concurrence

On August 23, both chambers concurred with the opposite chamber's redistricting plans. The Senate voted 36-16 to approve the House plan, and the House voted 104-56 to approve the Senate plan. The bills then moved to Gov. Nathan Deal for his signature.[54]

Special session lobbying

According to financial disclosure forms, lobbyists spent nearly $50,000 a week during the two week special session. Although lobbyists spent about $125,000 per week during the regular session, essentially only one issue, redistricting, was on the table during the special session. [55]

Deal signs maps

On August 24, Governor Deal signed Georgia's legislative redistricting maps. Upon signing the maps, he said, "Georgians can be proud of what their legislators produced in these new maps." The Governor's press release on the signing can be found here.

Plans submitted for approval

On October 6, Georgia officials filed the state’s redistricting plans with the federal government for approval under the Voting Rights Act. The VRA permits states to pursue approval with either the Department of Justice or the US District Court for DC. Georgia officials opted to pursue both options with the intent of dropping the legal action if the DOJ approved the plans. North Carolina and Texas were among the other states also taking this approach.[56]

Groups oppose approval

Georgia's Legislative Black Caucus and a coalition of other organizations asked the US District Court for the District of Columbia to reject the state's redistricting plans. Under the Voting Rights Act, states which require DOJ approval for redistricting plans may alternatively seek that approval in the DC District Court. Georgia submitted its plans using both avenues. However, in its District Court case, Georgia also asked to be released from the VRA's pre-approval requirements. Opponents of the new redistricting plans argued that they diluted the power of black voters by packing them into minority-majority districts.[57]

DOJ pre-approves maps

On December 23, 2011, the U.S. Department of Justice gave pre-approval to Georgia's redistricting plan under the Voting Rights Act. This was the first time in Georgia history that all of the state's maps -- House, Senate, and US Congress--were approved upon first review. However, state Democrats said that past DOJ approvals did not stop revisions by the courts and that the party was considering legal action. Georgia's Legislative Black Caucus was less circumspect, saying that they still planned to challenge the maps in court.[58][59]

Legal Issues

Dekalb County schools

Residents of Dekalb County rallied to prevent school closures. Under a redistricting plan -- proposed by interim Superintendent Ramona Tyson on February 7, 2011 -- the county would close eight schools, impacting nearly 9,000 students at a savings of $12.4 million a year. The original plan called for closing 14 schools but was scaled back due to the public outcry. The plan was an attempt to deal with 11,300 empty seats currently in county schools in order to generate more state funding. The revised plan eliminates 5,125 of those seats, leaving 6,185.[60]

Full information is available on the Dekalb County Schools website.

Legal action

On March 7 the school board adopted Tyson's plan by a vote of 7-2 in favor. Of the eight schools to close, six would be decommissioned with two being put on "inactive status," which allows the board to reopen them if they see fit. A number of citizens were critical of the plan, with one parent, Tasha Walker, filing a lawsuit seeking an immediate injunction against the decision of the board.[61]

Prior to the vote, a group of Dekalb County parents hired attorney Lee Parks to represent them if the board voted to redraw attendance lines separating Vanderlyn and Austin Elementary schools. Parks stated the issue, "When you peel back the curtain, it’s creating two white schools. I think the new board member, Ms. Jester, thinks that’s some sort of political mandate that she got when she was elected.”[62]

Parks and the parents allege that Jester intended to segregate the schools, saying that only children in single-family homes would be able to attend the better schools under the plan. Jester denied the accusations, saying that she provided input on the plan but only considered geography and school capacity, not race, socioeconomic status or housing.[62]

New cities and minority voting power

Following the release of 2010 census data, the Georgia Legislative Black Caucus filed a lawsuit on March 28 seeking the dissolution of five cities in Dekalb and Fulton counties. The suit against the state claimed that normal procedures were circumvented in order to create "super-majority white" cities, which dilute minority votes and violate the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the U.S. Constitution.[63][64] Civil Rights Movement veteran, Rev. Joseph Lowery, also joined the lawsuit.[65] On June 10, the Georgia Attorney General's Office filed a motion to have the lawsuit dismissed, arguing that the formation of the cities "does not diminish anyone’s existing right to vote and did not violate the Voting Rights Act."[66]

Population figures

2010 census figures showed Fulton County was 44.5% white and 44.1% black, while DeKalb County was about 54% black and 33.3% white. The cities that the suit sought to dissolve, all created since 2005, showed the following ratios:

City Year formed  % white in 2010  % black in 2010
Sandy Springs 2005 65% 20%
Milton 2006 76.6% 9%
Johns Creek 2006 63.5% 9.2%
Chattahoochee Hills 2007 68.6% 20%
Dunwoody 2008 69.8% 12%

History

In the history of Georgia redistricting, the state has faced two key challenges. The first was Georgia's transition from districts based on geography to districts based on population. The second was the political struggle to ensure equal voting power for minorities. From 1961 to 1974, the legislature enacted 17 major reapportionment plans in order to rectify both of these issues.

Districts based on geography came from provisions of the 1877 state Constitution, as amended in 1920. This would lead Georgia to have some of the most poorly apportioned districts in the country. At this time, the Constitution provided representation to the state House based on county size - the 8 largest counties had three representatives, the next 30 largest had two, and the rest one. Despite the fact that the number of district increased, the formula remained the same.

Court orders to more fairly apportion districts began in 1962, with the legislature generally unresponsive. Finally in 1968, the legislature designed plans, which still far from ideal, were approved by the courts, seeing as how a new census would occur soon. Following the 1970 census, the legislature contracted with the University of Georgia to set up a team known as the Legislative Reapportionment Service Unit to process the data, removing the technical aspect from lawmakers. This team became known as the Legislative Reapportionment Services Office at the Carl Vinson Institute of Government, and was used until 2011, when a Legislative and Congressional Reapportionment Office was created.[7]

Despite pulling in the resources of the University, plans submitted to the U.S. Department of Justice in 1971 were all rejected. This eventually led the Justice Department to file suit in federal district court due to House districts that did not provide equal voting power to minorities. The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the challenge to 15 districts.[67]

2001 redistricting

In 2001, Georgia politicians started fighting when they were still scheduling sessions to discuss redistricting. The Governor at the time, Roy E. Barnes, called two special sessions, one for Congressional seats and one for legislative seats. Republicans cried foul, saying Barnes felt he could better control the process and hand more safe seats to the Democrats if the process were severed. Had redistricting happened a year earlier, the two new seats Georgia gained would have been a cinch for Democrats. But, in 2001, Georgia was trending to the right, and there was no such certainty.

Georgia has a Democratic governor and narrow Democratic margins in both legislative chambers, but the Congressional delegation was Republican dominated. Gaining two seats with a Democratic trifecta, albeit a soft one, was seen by national Democrats as a golden opportunity to ensure two new seats would go blue and to weaken the Republican hold on Georgia's existing districts.

Special sessions

Barnes scheduled the special session to meet back-to-back beginning in August 1, 2001. Ahead of that, legislative reapportionment committee members meet throughout the summer, producing two maps, both of which promptly enraged Republicans. The Democrats had introduced multimember districts, an oddity phased in 1990 as they diluted the strength of minority voters. The GOP claimed reintroducing such districts would have the same weakening effect on them; they introduced their own plan, which met a swift but merciless death.[68]

Gov. Barnes quickly wore out his welcome with both parties as lawmakers fumed over perceived executive intrusion in a legislative perogative. Too, Democrats railed against a governor who was willing to sacrifice individual legislators' safe seats in the pursuit of a statewide map that favored the party. Legislative Republicans had little input during the first week of the session and the first draft of the Democratic map had some eyebrow raising district boundaries. Days later, it passed on a 29-26 Senate vote, the smallest possible margin to win. The Lieutenant Governor, presiding over the chamber, called the plan "workable" while Republicans swore the districts were so gerrymandered even officeholders would be baffled and swore to take their fight to the courts.

The next week, House Democrats broke a two week private pow wow and produced their map, which did indeed contain four multimember districts. The map easily passed out of subcommittee and survived a four hour debate on the House floor to win approval 102-74. Republicans walked off the floor in protest after the vote but expressed some hope, saying they expected to voters to be equally angry and to shoot down the plan.[69]

Conference Committee

They never got a chance as, on August 21, 2001, Governor Barnes surprised everyone by ordering them to redraw both the House and Senate maps, apparently fearing that multimember districts cutting through black population centers might risk being rejected by the Justice Department. This ran into the time allotted for Congressional mapping, but did not stop legislators from producing such a map at the end of August.

September opened with competing House and Senate redistricting plans set to go before a conference committee with three members of each chamber. However, the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, and Speaker of the House were presumed to be the real power brokers who would continue to control the process. The map favored by House Speaker Tim Murphy, however, incensed black members of the Democratic Caucus so much that they partnered with Republicans to draw and submit an alternate map. That map, championed by Ben Allen, was thrown out almost immediately, but black Dems could claim a slight victory, having forced the Senate to pull a Congressional map off the floor when they refused to get behind it. In the end, the Senate passed the map favored by Speaker Murphy.[70]

In the end, conference committees couldn't hammer out the details. The Senate caved in on September 21, 2001, while the House voted to reconvene the following week. Two steady weeks of late nights having failed, the legislature was left to either call a third special session or take up redistricting as soon as it sat the following January. With the cost of the so-far failed special session exceeding $1 million, Lieutenant Governor Mark Taylor said he would be willing to call the Senate back for a single day to ratify a plan, if the House delivered something he considered acceptable. Facing frustration from politicians across the state and under pressure to finish the job, lawmakers managed to pass a redistricting bill, 99-59 in the House and 30-23 in the Senate, on Friday, September 28, 2001, but hardly anyone was happy with it.[71]

U.S. District Court lawsuit

Republicans sued and the case went before the U.S. Court in Washington, DC at the end of January 2002. Originally, only state Senate districts were on trial, but the GOP won a pre-trial victory when U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan agreed to allow all three maps to be argued. In doing this, Georgia became the first state to seek pre-clearance through the Federal courts, rather then through the Justice Department. Court rulings are usually only sought in connection to the Voting Rights Act when the Justice Department has already seen and rejected a plan. However, as Georgia's map were argued in court, the Justice Department did have the same maps for review, and a timely approval promised to speed up the trial.

In early April, the Court rejected the Senate map; legislators turned out a new one, which did win court approval, in five days. Governor Barnes indicated he would sign off on the new Senate bill, along with the House and Congressional bills, clearing the way for the map to go back to the Federal judges to be assessed against the requirements of the Voting Rights Act.[72]

Those maps got Georgia through the 2002 elections, but a fresh lawsuit in J anuary 2003 sought to overturn the original court ruling and reinstate the first set of Senate boundaries. Favorable turns of event in the midterms had given Republicans unexpected control of the state Senate and their case, accepted by the U.S. Supreme Court, charged that the previous Democratic Senate had created "supermajority" black seats - districts where minorities were given not an equal chance to win but unassailable domination - something that they alleged was in violation of the Voting Rights Act.

Constitutional crisis

Back in Georgia, Republicans proposed new laws that banned the use of political data in drawing maps, forbade splitting precincts, and strongly discourage splitting counties. This time around, they had the backing the state's new Governor, Republican, and former Representative, Sonny Perdue. Once lawmakers agreed to a statement of principles on those rules, Perdue asked Democratic Attorney General Thurbert Baker to withdraw the appeal already before the Supreme Court so as to allow the legislature to rework the maps.

Baker refused, much to Perdue's very public dismay. Meanwhile, the legislature continued its plans to draw new maps at yet another special session. Perude retained a former U.S. Attorney to help him force Baker into dropping the appeal; that lawyer later recused himself over potential conflicts of interest and Governor Purdue retained new counsel. Law on point was murky; one ruling made it clear the governor was the supreme office in the state while another said the attorney general was paramount on all legal matters. In short, Georgia was theoretically about to have a Constitutional crisis.

The Senate voted 31-24 to force Baker to drop the appeal, which he publicly refused to do as soon as the vote was out. For good measure, the House, still in Democratic hands, announced it would not approve any new maps. At the end of February, Perdue filed papers in Washington, DC, asking the Supreme Court to return the matter to the Georgia Supreme Court, and in Atlanta, asking the Fulton County Court to block Baker's appeal.

New Senate maps

On March 7, 2003, the Senate Redistricting Committee passed a new map and sent it to the floor for debate, turning a dead ear to the House's insistence that it would not approve the map. To clarify their insistence on seeing the new map passed, Senate Republicans threatened the keep House Democrats' bill sitting in committee indefinitely absent a floor vote on their new map.

Meanwhile, the Fulton County Court heard Perdue's cases and ruled in favor of Baker. The former appealed to the state Supreme Court while the original appeal continued forward with the U.S. Supreme Court. In June 2003, the overturned the lower court's ruling but also ordered the original panel of judges to revisit their decision, a move expected to lead to an agreement with the Supreme Court. Perdue took a further blow in September 2003 when the Georgia Supreme Court, on a 5-2 vote, upheld the Fulton County Court's decision for Baker.

Undeterred, at the end of October, Perdue announced redistricting would be on the 2004 legislative agenda. Georgia Republicans brought a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court arguing that the 2001 map drew uneven districts that violated the "one man, one vote" principle." On February 10, 2004, the Courts threw out the 2001 maps and ordered new ones completed by Mach 1, 2004, a victory for the GOP. On the 26th of the month, the final day of the legislative session, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to stay the lower court's order. The state of Georgia, led by Attorney General Baker, still planned to appeal the actual ruling. Not surprisingly, lawmakers missed the March 1st deadline and redistricting was taken over by a court appointed committee.

Within two weeks, the committee produced a set of redistricting maps, which won Federal approval at the end of March. Just in time for the 2004 elections, with a $2 million price tag, Georgia was finished redistricting.[73]

Deviation from "Ideal Districts"

2000 Population Deviation[74]
Office Percentage
Congressional Districts 0.01%
State House Districts 1.96%
State Senate Districts 1.94%
Under federal law, districts may vary from an 'Ideal District' by up to 10%, though the lowest number achievable is preferred. 'Ideal Districts' are computed through simple division of the number of seats for any office into the population at the time of the Census.

Lawsuits related to the 2000 Census

There were three lawsuits, not counting appeals, related to the Georgia 2000 census redistricting process.[75]

  • Georgia v. Ashcroft, No. 01-2111, 195 F.Supp.2d 25 (D. D.C. Apr. 5, 2002) : The State of Georgia brought a declaratory judgment action in district court for the District of Columbia, seeking preclearance of its legislative and congressional plans. The court granted preclearance of the congressional and state House of Representatives plans, but denied preclearance of the Senate plan.
  • Larios v. Cox, No. 1:03-CV-693-CAP, 300 F. Supp.2d 1320 (N.D. Ga. Feb. 10, 2004), aff’d 542 U.S. 947 (June 30, 2004) ( No. 03-1413) (mem.) : Plaintiffs challenged the 2001 congressional and House plans and the 2001 and 2002 Senate plans enacted by the Georgia General Assembly on various grounds. A Federal District Court upheld the congressional plan struck down the legislative plans for violating the Equal Protection Clause. The court gave the General Assembly a deadline of March 1, 2004 to submit new plans. After the General Assembly failed to meet the deadline the court appointed a Special Master to draw them. The districts drawn up by the Special Master were approved by the court on April 15.
  • Kidd v. Cox, No. 1:06-CV-0997-BBM, 2006 WL 1341302, 2006 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 29689 (N.D. Ga. May 16, 2006) (three-judge court) : A claim was brought that three of the Senate districts violated one person, one vote. The court dismissed the case, stating that “population deviations of less than ten percent ‘are presumptively constitutional, and the burden lies on the plaintiffs to rebut that presumption’”

Constitutional explanation

With respect to redistricting, the Georgia Constitution provides authority to the General Assembly in Section II, Paragraph II of Article III.

See also

External links

References

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  2. CBS Atlanta, "GA. GOP in charge of redistricting for 1st time," July 30, 2011
  3. Times-Herald "Seabuagh defends redistricting committee," April 5, 2011
  4. Atlanta Journal-Constitution, "House members tackling final measures in session's last day," April 15, 2011
  5. The Augusta Chronicle, "Analysis: Redistricing tension grows in Georgia," July 25, 2011
  6. Atlanta Journal-Constitution "Casey Cagle wins an obscure but important tiff over redistricting," January 25, 2011
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 Macon.com, "Ga. GOP, Dems argue over redistricting effort," February 3, 2011
  8. The Augusta Chronicle, "Georgia Democrats cry foul on redistricting plan," February 3, 2011
  9. GPB News, "Redistricting Prompts Partisan Debate," April 13, 2011
  10. Macon.com, "LEGISLATIVE NOTEBOOK: Redistricting office ready to start mapping," April 14, 2011
  11. WRCB, "Senate Democrats call for new redistricting office," February 7, 2011
  12. Ledger-Enquirer, "Senate Democrats call for 2nd redistricting office", February 7, 2011
  13. :*Greenfield Reporter, "High-ranking Georgia senator rejects Democrats' request for new redistricting office", February 10, 2011
  14. The Hill, "Georgia Republican brushes aside Dems' redistricting worries," February 16, 2011
  15. Atlanta Journal Constitution "Ga. redistricting maps may land in court first," June 27, 2011
  16. Roll Call, "Georgia GOP Looks Past DOJ to Clear New Lines," May 25, 2011
  17. The Augusta Chronicle, "Democrats want to see redistricting maps early," June 3, 2011
  18. Dalton Daily Citizen "Dalton to host redistricting hearing," April 25, 2011
  19. Access North Ga, "Georgia lawmakers launch redistricting hearings," May 17, 2011
  20. Times Herald, "Ga. House Democrats hosting reapportionment hearings," July 19, 2011
  21. Florida Times Union, "In Georgia, rhetoric on redistricting is already heated," July 25, 2011
  22. Greenfield Daily Reporter, "Georgia legislators meet to set rules for redistricting process less than a month away," July 20, 2011
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  24. The Augusta Chronicle, "2010 census findings to affect voting districts," March 19, 2011
  25. Savannah Morning News, "Census figures put Chatham, south Georgia lawmakers in a squeeze," March 20, 2011
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  75. Minnesota State Senate "2000 Redistricting Case Summaries"