Georgia House Committee Postpones Vote on Redistricting

Posted February 23, 2005 at 2:35pm

Republicans in the Georgia state House put off voting on their version of a new Congressional map Wednesday, amid cries from Democrats to halt the mid-decade effort to redraw boundaries.

The state House Committee on Legislative and Congressional Reapportionment met Wednesday morning and was expected to pass a revised version of a map penned by panel chairman Bobby Franklin (R). But the vote was delayed, after Franklin said the public should have more time to comment on the new map.

“We wanted the public to have another chance to take a look at the map” Franklin told The Associated Press. “As soon as we feel it’s ready, and the committee is ready, we’ll be able to bring it forward.”

State House and Senate leaders unveiled dramatically different Congressional maps last week, as Republicans moved forward with their plan to replace the awkward boundaries drawn by Democrats in 2001.

The map put forward by the state Senate mirrors the district boundaries that the seven Republicans in the Congressional delegation had previously signed off on, and leaders in the state Senate have acknowledged coordinating with lawmakers in Washington on their proposed version. That plan has the potential to create only one Member versus Member match up.

But the initial version from the state House, dubbed the Franklin map, paired as many as three sets of incumbents. The map has since been revised and the new version being circulated in Atlanta would pair just two sets of incumbents: Rep. Jim Marshall (D) with Rep. Lynn Westmoreland (R) and Rep. John Barrow (D) with Rep. John Linder (R). The Franklin map would leave Barrow, a freshman, few options: challenge a GOP incumbent in unfriendly territory, move across the state to an open seat, or retire. Under the proposed Senate map, Barrow might still run in a new 12th district that includes some of the southeastern territory he currently represents, but not his Athens home.

The revised Franklin plan would likely create two new open seats — an entirely different 12th district that would lie to the northwest of Atlanta and a heavily altered 3rd district that would include much of middle Georgia. Under Franklin’s plan, the new 3rd district would more closely resemble the old 8th district before Congressional lines were redrawn in 1995.

The current Congressional delegation is comprised of seven Republicans and six Democrats. None of the state’s four black lawmakers are jeopardized politically under either the House or Senate plans. Because Georgia is a Voting Rights Act state, the Justice Department must approve any changes to Congressional boundaries before they are implemented.

Today is day 23 of the 40-day legislative session and at least one chamber must pass a new map by day 33. If the chambers pass different maps they would eventually have to be reconciled by a six-member conference committee.

Republicans argue that the current Congressional map, drawn by Democrats in 2001, splits an egregious number of counties and communities of interest in an effort to make partisan gains.

Last year the state’s Legislative maps, also penned in 2001, were deemed unconstitutional and redrawn. Federal judges also considered the constitutionality of the state’s Congressional map but those boundaries were allowed to stand.

On Tuesday night, the state House voted largely along party lines to approve new guidelines for redistricting. Those principles of redistricting advise lawmakers to avoid bizarre shapes and split as few cities and counties as possible when drawing boundaries.

The same resolution has also been introduced in the state Senate. That chamber’s redistricting committee is scheduled to meet at 2:30 p.m. Thursday to consider its proposed map.