ATLANTA (AP) — A new Republican proposal to redraw Georgia's congressional map pushes Democratic U.S. Rep Lucy McBath into what would be a strongly Republican district, making it likely that Republicans would increase their current 8-6 edge in Georgia's congressional seats to 9-5.
Democrats argue that a fair plan would build districts equally around each party’s voters, increasing the chances of a 7-7 delegation reflecting Georgia’s 50-50 partisan split in recent elections, but the process largely shut them out.
The map released Wednesday by the House and Senate Republican caucuses in the Georgia General Assembly was agreed to after days of closed-door talks, and will likely pass through the majority-GOP legislature in coming days.
Democrats and Republicans in legislatures nationwide have been using the redistricting process to try to increase their party's edge in the narrowly divided Congress. Republicans control more of the 50 statehouses, and hope to leverage this advantage to flip the U.S. House to a GOP majority next year.
Georgia's population rose nearly 10% to 10.7 million people over the last decade, but Census results showed the growth has been uneven, with most new residents concentrated in the Atlanta area and around Savannah. Most rural areas lost population. The congressional map needed to be adjusted so that each of the 14 districts would have roughly equal populations of about 765,000.
“Georgia Republicans, the NRA and the Republican Party have made eliminating Lucy McBath from Congress their top priority, and they are attempting to do so in a remarkably undemocratic process,” said Jake Orvis, McBath's campaign manager, noting that her current 6th district was already close to the ideal population.
The GOP map also shifts the 7th District in Atlanta's suburbs toward Democrats, leaving the home of incumbent Democrat Carolyn Bourdeaux outside the proposed lines, and draws Republican Andrew Clyde's home out of northeast Georgia’s 9th Congressional District into a reconfigured 10th Congressional District.
“Today, we have released a proposed map that reflects Georgia’s growing, diverse population, respects jurisdictional lines and communities of interest, and conforms to applicable legal standards including the Voting Rights Act," said Georgia House Speaker David Ralston, a Blue Ridge Republican.
Liberal-leaning activists have criticized the redistricting process, which helps determine which party will hold power for another 10 years, for its lack of transparency, although closed-door decisions by the majority have long been the norm in Georgia.
Republicans' 8-6 majority on Georgia's current congressional map is down from 10-4 a decade ago after McBath and Bourdeaux won.
“In drawing a congressional map that disproportionately advantages one political party and diminishes the voting strength of people of color, Republicans are once again silencing millions of Georgians’ voices for the sake of holding on to power,” Democratic Party of Georgia Executive Director Scott Hogan said in a statement.
For the first time in more than 50 years, Georgia is redrawing its maps without federal oversight. A Supreme Court ruling in 2013 removed mandatory federal approval of new maps for Georgia and other states with a history of discrimination in voting.
The proposed map draws McBath's district, which now includes parts of Cobb, Fulton and DeKalb counties, northward into much more Republican territory, including all of Forsyth and Dawson counties and part of Cherokee County.
The 6th district would lose its part of more Democratic DeKalb County, make the 7th more securely Democratic, encompassing the southern two-thirds of Gwinnett County and a Democratic-leaning corner of north Fulton County.
While Bourdeaux and Clyde's current homes are outside their proposed districts, U.S. House members don't have to live in the district they represent.
Clyde's home in Jackson County is drawn into a reshaped 10th District that shifts northward to center much more on Athens. The current representative of the 10th District, Republican Jody Hice, is running for secretary of state, making it easier for lawmakers to cut up his district.
The new 9th District, including parts of northern Gwinnett County, could be an open seat and heavily Republican.
The 12th District, now held by Republican Rick Allen, becomes centered on the Augusta area, adding the remainder of Columbia County, part of Wilkes County and all of Lincoln, Glascock, Jefferson, McDuffie, Warren and Washington counties.
Southwest Georgia's 2nd District, held by longtime Democratic incumbent Sanford Bishop, is the Georgia district that needs to gain the most people, being 92,000 below the ideal population. To get there, it adds more of Muscogee, parts of Bibb and Houston counties and all of Dooly and Thomas counties. The district would no longer have a Black majority.
Republican Rep. Barry Loudermilk's 11th District would retreat out of Fulton County, give up part of Cherokee and add part of Pickens County. It would keep all of Bartow County and part of Cobb County. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene's 14th District would move closer to Atlanta by adding part of Cobb County.
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Jeff Amy, The Associated Press