Criticism of Georgia House legislative map draft mounts

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A new proposed map for Georgia House district lines was released Monday, but the changes were not enough to curtail criticism.

The new map drew nearly three hours of public comment. Residents and advocates complained they did not have time to review the new map released ahead of a legislative meeting Monday. Others said the new draft splits too many counties into different districts and considers the political security of incumbents over the public's needs.

“I want to encourage you. I want to urge you all to take more time in this process,” said Hannah Joy Gebresilassie, a journalist and co-founder of Protect the Vote GA. “We don't have to pass this on day four, day five, day six. We can take time.”

Lawmakers must reconstruct legislative maps every 10 years to correspond with U.S. Census Bureau data. Last year's census showed Georgia's population grew by 1 million people from 2010 to 2020.

Monday's map was the second proposal released by the House's Legislative and Congressional Reapportionment Committee for Georgia's 180 House districts since holding hearings from summer into fall. The first map was released Nov. 2.

The new proposal keeps District 50 in Fulton County instead of drawing it into Forsyth County. Democrat Rep. Angelika Kausche currently represents the district. The committee also fixed an error on the first map, which had relocated Democrat Rep. Josh McLaurin into a vacant seat. The new map also reduces the size of District 91, which was drawn farther into districts 86 and 92 on the first map.

There are 103 Republicans in the House and 77 Democrats. There must be 59,511 residents in each district.

Fayette County was a hot-button topic Monday for the public. It is split into four districts on the map. Constituents said it would separate communities of interest. For instance, it splits Peachtree City, a town of 35,400 residents, into three districts.

Peachtree City resident Suzanne Brown said the proposal is “ridiculous.”

“I really feel like the plan you have right now is going to be a loss of voice for so many parts of Peachtree City by throwing us into districts that have a majority population that are completely different from our own,” Brown said.

The Princeton Gerrymandering Project gave the initial committee draft a B grade for its partisan fairness but an F grade for its competitiveness. Princeton analysts predicted it would give incumbents an election advantage. The next election will be in 2022, when all House seats are up for grabs. The project said there was an opportunity for the state to draw a more competitive map.

The Democratic caucus also drafted a House map in response to the Republican leadership's initial proposal, which Princeton gave the same grade as the committee's map.

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