You may have seen recent news stories about Georgia’s new district maps that were mandated by a federal judge to increase Black voting power and representation. We want to help you understand how the new maps that were approved just before the new year affect Georgia Democrats and DeKalb voters.
What does this new redistricting mean for Georgia?
Redistricting, based on U.S. Census data, takes place every ten years. In Georgia, as in most states, it is a partisan effort, with the advantage going to the majority party.
In late October 2023, U.S. District Court Judge Steve Jones ruled that Georgia’s 2021 Republican redistricting maps violated the 1965 Voting Rights Act because they diluted the voting power of Black voters. The Georgia legislature was required to conduct a special session to redraw district maps in order to add one majority Black Congressional district, 5 majority Black State House districts , and two majority Black State Senate districts, by December 8.
In the re-drawing, those court-ordered changes were achieved, according to Judge Jones, even though Black and other non-white voters would barely benefit. Republicans managed to protect their 9-5 partisan advantage with respect to the Congressional district breakdown. They achieved this by redrawing Rep. Lucy McBath’s 7th Congressional District to favor the Republicans. (She will now be running in a reconstituted 6th Congressional District that is majority Black.)
An appeal is expected, but in all likelihood the new maps will remain, at least for the 2024 elections.
It is remarkable when one considers that Republicans will continue to hold a 9-5 majority among Georgia’s 14 Congressional seats despite the fact that President Biden narrowly won the state. The Republicans’ 33-23 majority in the State Senate most likely will continue; and while Democrats have a chance to gain one or two seats in the State House, this will have only a small impact on the current 102-78 Republican majority.
What does this new redistricting mean for you as a resident of DeKalb County?
In the process of drawing the new maps, Republicans made major changes to many of DeKalb County’s State House and Senate districts, a move which had not been mandated by the court order. All residents of DeKalb County are currently represented by Democratic State Representatives and Senators, and that probably won’t change with the new maps. However, the Republicans’ changes will affect relationships between legislators and their constituents, and the newly gerrymandered districts will cause confusion and inefficiency.
Importantly, several principles that represent best practices in creating districts were violated in the redrawn version:
–Districts should have a compact shape and keep communities of interest together. DeKalb will now have an increased number of narrow districts that snake through the county and cut through cities and communities, a hallmark of partisan gerrymandering.
–Voters should be allowed to continue to be represented by the persons they elected and with whom they have established working relationships. With the new maps, a large number of central and south DeKalb residents will have to vote for different representatives and senators from those they elected in 2022.
Some of the changes to DeKalb County maps are particularly egregious with respect to violating these principles. For example,
- Sen. Elena Parent, who currently has a compact and logical district, will be running in a district that is largely new to her and which will now include part of Clayton County.
- Reps. Mary Margaret Oliver and Omari Crawford will be running in side-by-side districts that snake from southeast DeKalb up to Druid Hills and slice through cities and communities that would more logically be kept intact.
- Most egregious of all, State Reps. Saira Draper and Becky Evans were drawn into the same district and are now forced to run against one another in the May primary.
Current representation will continue through the 2024 legislative session (January through March) and until the new districts take effect in January, 2025. However, when you vote in the May 2024 primary and the November 2024 general election, you will be voting in your new districts, and thereafter if court appeals fail.
Fair Districts GA, https://www.fairdistrictsga.org/, which advocates for a fair and nonpartisan redistricting process, has an interactive map on their website that allows you to enter your address and see your new districts: https://fairdistrictsga.github.io/Georgia-Explorer/. The dropdown list in the upper left allows you to access the 2023 House and Senate Remedy maps.
How You Can Help
The DeKalb Democrats will be working hard to ensure we continue to have strong Democratic legislators in these new districts in 2024 as we also work to safeguard our democracy by getting out the vote for the Presidential election. You can help support our mission by volunteering for our various committees or donating to our cause.
Volunteer here: https://dekalbdems.com/volunteer/
Donate here: http://tinyurl.com/Dekalbdemsdonate