Redistricting Redux 2023: Week One
The halls of the Georgia Capitol may be decked with boughs of holly, but the atmosphere of the Special Redistricting Session has not been merry.
TL;DR A federal judge ruled in late October that Georgia’s 2021 maps violate the 1965 Voting Rights Act by diluting Black voters (see last week’s Snapshot for background details). Now the legislature has until December 8th to fix the problem.
Once the maps are signed into law, federal judge Steve Jones will decide if his Order has been met. Should he rule that any of the new maps violate his Order, a “special master” will redraw the maps outside of the legislative process. Time is of the essence because candidates qualify to run in the 2024 elections this coming March.
In the meantime, Republicans took their case to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. A decision by the Appeals Court probably won’t occur until after the 2024 elections.
Putting Up a Fight
Democrats do not have the votes to stop these maps, so clearly our battleground is in the courts. But what we say and do legislatively is a matter of public record that the court can consider in their findings. For this reason, both the Senate & House Democrats have filed bills with their own maps and members of your Senate Democratic Caucus wrote speeches at lightning speed and delivered them on the Senate floor Friday afternoon. Watch the video of my speech by clicking the link at the bottom of this email.
An Accelerated Timeline
Senate & House Rules have been temporarily changed to shorten the amount of time needed to pass bills. And since Republican maps were not released until this week, hearings are being held with little or no notice. At this point, I predict that the U.S. House map will be on the floor of the Senate on Tuesday for its first vote, and the State House & Senate maps must both pass the other chamber. The last step to becoming law is the Governor’s signature.
Here’s What You Can Do
Go to the public portal to record your comments! (see link here) Take a moment to read other people’s comments and get a feel for what people across Georgia are saying, then post your own thoughts. Make it as personal as you can. Here’s some suggested language to use as a starting point.
“I’m a resident of DeKalb/Gwinnett County. I am extremely concerned about the severe disruption that the state legislative maps proposed by both the House and Senate Republicans will cause in my county [and my district if you live in a district that’s been disrupted by the GOP map]. DeKalb/Gwinnett County was NOT identified as an area of concern by Judge Jones. These are unnecessary changes that do not benefit Black voters, and do a grave disservice to DeKalb/Gwinnett County voters.”
“I am in favor of the Democratic maps proposed by the Senate and House Democrats because they more directly address the Voting Rights Act violations identified by the court, benefit more Black voters in Georgia, and minimize disruption to voters like me who live outside of the areas the courts identified.”
U.S. House Map: The 2021 map reduced Democratic Congressional districts by one, despite significant growth in Black population. The new proposed map holds Democratic seats to 5, creating a majority-Black district on the west side of Atlanta in Fulton, Cobb, Douglas and Fayette counties. Charles Bullock, a highly respected UGA political science professor said Georgia legislators appear to be going “down the Alabama path.”
State Senate Map: Republican leadership protected all their own incumbents by adding Black voters to two majority-white Democratic districts to make them majority-Black. But just to create confusion, they strategically switched around district numbers. Black districts were sliced and diced and given new numbers, and thus called new Black districts (when they really weren’t), and majority-white districts were given numbers that used to be majority-Black districts and visa versa. Confused? So was I. For various reasons, I think it is very possible the Senate maps will be redrawn by a court appointed special master.
State House Map: Of all three maps, the State House map appears to mostly comply with the court order. However, House Republicans took advantage of opening the maps and targeted several highly talented Democrats by drawing them into districts with each other. This includes Reps. Sam Park and Greg Kennard of Gwinnett county, Reps. Saira Draper and Becky Evans of DeKalb county and Reps. Teri Anulewicz and Doug Stoner of Cobb county.
New Staff: With only one thing on the agenda, you would think time would move slowly, but nothing is ever slow at the Georgia Capitol. I’ve been meeting with various Caucus Executive Committees to plan for the upcoming session and I also began training a new administrative assistant this week! Last month I said goodbye to Keridan Ogletree, who has been with me for five years, and this week I welcomed Peachtree Corners resident Kathlene Dorking. I look forward to introducing her further in the coming weeks.
Privileged Resolutions: During Special Sessions, the legislature cannot bring up any bills that are outside the agenda set by the Governor. However, Privileged Resolutions, used for honoring or offering condolences, can be considered.
Sadly, Republicans are using Privileged Resolutions to push controversial votes that they can use against Democrats in the 2024 elections. The Resolutions seem harmless on the surface, but embedded in them are typically a few sentences of controversial language that make me grimace. These non-binding resolutions were tricky votes for me this week, but I tried my best to stick to my values. If you have questions, please let me know.
That’s a lot to happen in three days! I’m sure next week will be just as busy.
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