What we want:
Georgia’s U.S. House, State Senate, and State House districts should be drawn by an independent bipartisan commission to reflect geographic compactness, respect county borders, and protect minority voting power, not by the majority party in the legislature to enhance their partisan advantage.
- A more representative legislature. When the state legislature draws its own lines, the majority party (currently the Republicans) works to waste as many of the other party’s votes as possible, in order to maximize the size and security of their own majority. This is part of the reason that in 2016, when the Republicans only received 51% of the vote for President in Georgia, they still won 66% of State House, 68% of State Senate, and 71% of U.S. House seats. With fair redistricting, the composition of the legislature will more effectively reflect the balance of power between the parties among Georgia voters.
- More competitive elections. Fewer districts drawn to keep incumbents safe means more close races and more representatives who have to actually commit to supporting their constituents’ wishes and interests in order to be elected.
- Athens gets a State Senator! Currently, Athens-Clarke County is divided down the middle into State Senate Districts 46 and 47, held by Republicans Bill Cowsert and Frank Ginn, who win re-election with conservative voters in surrounding counties and whose politics do not at all represent the progressive majority of Athens. A fair redistricting would keep Athens together in a district that a progressive or leftist should win.
The political situation:
Resolutions to create an Independent Redistricting Commission were introduced in both the House and Senate as HR 3 and SR 6 during the 2017 Georgia Legislative Session. They both died in committee. There was minimal Republican support for these Democrat-led pushes, and that seems unlikely to change as long as Republicans are the beneficiaries of gerrymandering in Georgia. The issue could be forced by legal challenges against the maps created by the Georgia Legislature, such as a recent challenge in Wisconsin that found that their redistricting plan unconstitutional on the grounds of its partisan bias.
In the meantime, A4E will continue to promote an Independent Redistricting Commission in the public and make support for it a requisite for any candidates we support for the State House and State Senate.
Further Reading: Drawn to Scale: Gerrymandering, Fairness and You