ROSWELL, Ga. — Three maps cleared by the Georgia General Assembly last month during a special redistricting session and signed into law Dec. 30 by Gov. Brian Kemp will reshape elections in North Fulton County. A flurry of litigation is expected.
For the second time in state history, Republicans control the redistricting process, which follows each census. Georgia missed adding a new Congressional seat, after the state population grew by about one million people from 2010 to 2020.
U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath (D-Marietta), who represents North Fulton in the 6th Congressional District, has already announced she will seek election against an incumbent Democrat in the neighboring 7th District in Gwinnett County. The announcement followed the release of a new district map, which would extend beyond North Fulton into Forsyth and Dawson Counties. With the changes, Republicans have a strong chance of taking back the 6th District. McBath flipped a long held Republican seat in 2018.
McBath’s election bid will pit her against party ally Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux (D-Suwanee).
Bourdeaux’s 7th District covers most of Gwinnett and Forsyth Counties. The proposed plan would confine the district to Gwinnett County. Last election, Bourdeaux flipped a Republican seat held since 2002.
Critics of the new Congressional map argue that the Peach State will have no competitive races. In the 2020 election, only two seats in Georgia’s Congressional delegation were decided by fewer than 10 percentage points. Those were McBath and Bourdeaux’s current seats.
State Sen. Sally Harrell (D-Atlanta) said the redistricting session was fast and furious.
“The proposed maps were released just hours before the session began, which meant there was not enough time for analysis, review and statements from the public,” Harrell said. “Public hearings were announced with little warning, which made it very difficult for interested constituents to participate in the process.”
Harrell’s District 40 includes part of Fulton, DeKalb and Gwinnett counties. The updated map will remove Fulton County and parts of Gwinnett between Peachtree Corners and Berkeley Lake, totaling about 4,000 people.
One state senator said the maps represent Republican fears of losing.
District 48 State Sen. Michelle Au (D-Johns Creek) will seek election to a state House seat held by Rep. Angelika Kausche that encompasses part of her current Senate District. That district, which includes Johns Creek and parts of Duluth, would be redrawn to remove the current Gwinnett County section and replace it with Republican-leaning voters from Forsyth and northern Gwinnett counties.
“Because redistricting is this way – drawing districts so contrived as to be ludicrous, to shore up power that is clearly fading – reads like a balding man trying to fool the world with an embarrassing comb-over,” Au said.
State Sen. John Albers (R-Roswell) said the Republican majority in the General Assembly again produced constitutionally compliant State House, State Senate and Congressional maps. He will continue to represent State Senate District 56, which would stretch deeper into Cherokee County and away from Democratic prospects, under the proposal.
“The overt political power grabs and illegal punitive gerrymandering that marred the Democrat-led redistricting process in 2001 are not part of the current redistricting process,” Albers said. “In 2011, Republicans changed the game with a principled approach and passed maps that even the Obama Justice Department couldn’t object to.”
One state representative is seeking election to the State Senate.
Rep. Josh McLaurin (D-Sandy Springs) will seek election to Senate District 14, which includes the Fulton County cities of Sandy Springs, Roswell and the southern edge of Alpharetta. The proposed district will include parts of Albers’ current district.
McLaurin is critical of the Republican controlled Assembly’s maps and expects immediate litigation.
“The Supreme Court has said it is not illegal to do partisan gerrymandering where you carve up districts on the composition of Republicans and Democrats, but it is illegal to base redistricting decisions on the racial identity of voters in these districts,” McLaurin said. “That will be the focus of any litigation.”
Georgia Democrats support an independent redistricting commission drawing districts instead of the state legislature.
“At least with an independent commission, you create more layers of insulation between the politicians who are affected by the process and the process itself,” McLaurin said. “Voters are turned off the by the idea that politicians choose their voters, that’s antithetical to the idea of true representation.”