Who’s my rep?
As the result of the census last year, we are now in the middle of redistricting everything from U.S. Congressmen to County Commissioners. With maps all over the place, let’s take a look at where we stand as the Georgia House and Senate look at possible maps, but first let’s state what principles should be used for creating districts:
One Person, One Vote- The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Wesberry v. Sanders, 376 U.S. 1 (1964), that the U.S. Congressional Maps has to be redrawn due to unequal representation. Later in Reynolds v. Sims, 377 U.S. 533 (1964), the U.S. Supreme Court applied the 14th amendment to the Alabama State House. In the majority opinion, Chief Justice Earl Warren said “Legislators represent people, not trees or acres. Legislators are elected by voters, not farms or cities or economic interests.” Generally speaking, there is more latitude at the local level than the federal level, but the 10% difference between large and small counties (+/- 5%) has to be explained (Larios v. Cox).
Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act: “Section 5 requires that the number of minority opportunity districts cannot decrease during redistricting. This is called retrogression.” In other words, if there is a section 2 district (one that contains more than 50% of any one minority), and then it must be preserved.
Communities of Interest: While preserving a community like Flowery Branch (see Georgia House below) would seem to be something people would like, I cannot find where it is required by law. It seems that the Communities of Interest clause is just something that people have tried to do. A study done from 1994-2002 showed that “voters who had been carved into new districts that mainly covered areas outside their home counties knew far less about their new House candidates than voters who weren’t redistricted. In fact, the redistricted voters with low levels of political knowledge were only half as likely than voters in their former home district to even be able to name their congressperson or their congressperson’s challenger in an upcoming election. Redistricted voters with high political knowledge were only two-thirds as likely as voters in their former district to name their representative.” In the case of Georgia, it looks like the Voting Rights Act trumps Communities of Interest.
With that said, here is the way the maps appear to be shaping up:
U.S. Congress: While the maps have not been released, we already know that Hall County will most likely fall into the new congressional district. My sources tell me, however, that they will renumber the districts to leave us in the 9th. There are several maps being proposed and it looks like the favored map will look a lot like the old 9th congressional district from the 80’s.
Georgia Senate: This map, for Hall County, probably makes the most sense. There are 9,687,653 people in Georgia and 56 members of the Senate. That means that the districts should be about 173k people. With almost 180k people in the County, we were bound to lose some people. I don’t see anything wrong with that.
Georgia House: This map is a mess and totally ignored “Communities of Interest” as it split South Hall County up into 4 different house seats. Below you can see the preliminary map:
Basically, districts 9, 98, 103, and 28 (purple going into Banks County) would have a majority outside the county. So while the county has grown, Hall would probably only have the same 3 representatives it currently has. The other representatives would most likely reside in other counties. This presents a problem in these districts if it becomes a large majority of voters are out of county because it will not force candidates to campaign in Hall. For instance, let’s say someone from Hall (maybe me) runs for office in H.D. 103; with the district so heavily weighted in Gwinnett (~76%- Hall County would have about 8,885 voters out of 37,730), I would have to spend all my time campaigning in Gwinnett County while my Gwinnett political opponent could completely ignore Hall County.
It would seem that the rest of the state conspired against Hall County because of the perceived power the county supposedly holds by having residents as the Governor and Lt. Governor.
You can also look at some of the changes within the county. Now H.D. 29 goes from Napone Road in North Hall all the way down to just past Main St. in Flowery Branch. That is a huge district that appears to be designed to reduce the amount of influence from the City of Gainesville.
With all the protests, this map is likely to change a little.
Hall County Commission: The population of Hall County at the census was 179,684. That means that each commissioner (4 districts) should be about 44,921 +/- ~5%. Below is my shot at drawing the district. It puts district 1 at 2,000 people below the goal and district 2 at 1,269 people below the goal. I did it this way because earlier this year, it was projected that about 70% of the growth would be in South Hall County.
I socialized this map with “people in the know” and I have been told that it will run into issues: district 4, Commissioner Bell, will see the Latino percentage drop from 47% to 45% and District 3, Commissioner Gibbs, will grow in landmass (I have been told that it will be over his dead body).
I guess that the commission will have to have something to vote on by next week so it can get to the legislature in time to be set in stone. If not, the map will most likely not be approved until next year putting people at a disadvantage if they decide to run for office in District 4.
If this map works out, I can tell you 1 happy camper: Commissioner Lutz. If I recall, when Lutz beat banks in a runoff, he lost the 3 northern most voting precincts. This map will send those precincts to Bell and Gibbs.
We should hear a lot more about maps the next couple of weeks. I am looking forward seeing who will be my representatives.
Hugh Hall County Akston