Georgia Legislature Ponders Remap

Posted February 9, 2005 at 6:37pm

With their initial high hopes of swift action dramatically dashed, Georgia Republicans on Capitol Hill were resigned to taking a wait-and-see approach on Wednesday, as state legislators continued to ponder whether to move forward with redrawing Congressional boundaries.

The seven Peach State Republicans, commonly referred to as the “G-7,” met Tuesday night to discuss strategy and the current state of the redistricting plan.

That meeting came one day after members of the Georgia delegation sat down in Atlanta with Gov. Sonny Perdue (R), who pushed them to assume full responsibility for a new map, which would be drawn at the Legislature’s prerogative.

Sources familiar with the situation said that the governor asked the lawmakers to sign a letter endorsing a plan to redistrict. They then wrote state House Speaker Glenn Richardson (R) and state Senate Majority Leader Eric Johnson (R), urging them to take the matter up.

Republicans in Washington, D.C., were quietly circulating a new map last week. But Perdue has been described as the linchpin, and state legislators are weighing whether the disruption a mid-decade remapping is expected to cause is worth its costs in angst, legal fees and political capital. They will have to make a decision soon as they are almost halfway through their 40-day Legislative session.

On Wednesday, Members of the delegation assumed a deferential approach, asserting that they have little control over what happens now.

“The decision really lies in Atlanta and not in Washington,” Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.) said in an interview Wednesday.

Kingston, who was not at Monday’s meeting with Perdue, estimated the odds are about even as to whether the plan for new lines moves forward and acknowledged the harsh battle a redistricting attempt would create.

“I’ve lived though a couple of reapportionments politically and there’s always a lot of emotion and a lot of angst,” Kingston said. “Should the legislature revisit that, you’re going to have that. We’ve had discussions where there’s already been degrees of emotion.”

Rep. Lynn Westmoreland (R-Ga.), who has been the most prominent advocate for a new Congressional map, acknowledged Wednesday that the Members of the delegation have done all they can do. He likened the current situation to baking a cake.

“You get all the ingredients, you mix it all up and pour it in a pan … and stick it in the oven and you don’t mess with it. You just let it bake,” Westmoreland said. “I think all the ingredients are mixed up. I think everything is in the pan. I think it’s in the oven. We’re just going to see if it all turns out or not.”

The current map featuring contorted districts was drawn by Democrats in 2001 with the expressed purpose of political gains.

While state legislative maps drawn by the same lawmakers were later deemed unconstitutional, the Congressional map was upheld by a separate three-judge federal panel, in the Northern District of Georgia.

Because Georgia is a Voting Rights Act state, the map was pre-cleared by a 3-judge federal panel on in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia.

Under the new map being circulated, Democratic Reps. Jim Marshall and John Barrow would be put at the most risk. None of the state’s four black Democratic Members would be jeopardized.

A Perdue spokesman acknowledged the ugly configuration of the current districts, but reiterated that the ultimate decision to redraw them rests with the Legislature.

“The current map does look like a Rorschach test from hell and was clearly designed by Democrats who wanted to choose their voters rather than the other way around,” said Perdue spokesman Dan McLagan. “That being said it is a legislative prerogative and it is up to the House and Senate as to how to proceed.”

A spokeswoman for state House Speaker Glenn Richardson (R) said the legislative leaders were weighing several issues, such as how long the process would take and the costs involved, before making their final decision.

“As of right now it is still being seriously considered, without a final decision being made yet,” said Richardson spokeswoman Michelle Hitt. “I think the biggest consideration is what’s in the best interest of our citizens here.”