By Edward Lindsey
Related commentary: Integrate, don’t resegregate
The exhaustive efforts of the House and Senate Reapportionment Committees, their Chairmen Roger Lane and Mitch Seabaugh, and the Joint Reapportionment Office laid the groundwork for the Georgia General Assembly last week to conclude its redistricting special session in the shortest time in recent memory.
Our work constitutionally required that newly drawn state legislative and congressional districts be equal in population, which by necessity will have both geographic and partisan impacts.
According to the 2010 census, North Georgia and the outer metro suburbs of Atlanta grew dramatically over the past decade while the state’s urban cores and rural South and east Georgia fell behind.
Generally, this meant traditional Democratic strongholds lost population and Republican areas gained.
For instance, of the 20 lowest-populated state House districts in Georgia, 19 were held by Democrats. By contrast, 19 of the 20 largest state House districts were held by Republicans. The figures for state Senate and congressional seats are similar.
As a result, 14 Democratic state representatives and senators in low-population areas inside the Atlanta metro perimeter, and in rural Georgia, will face pairings in their primaries next summer. However, eight South Georgia Republicans also will face the same fate due to slow growth in their area.
The new district maps also meet the requirements of the federal Voting Rights Act, or VRA. The redistricting plans were created in accordance with guidelines issued by the Obama Justice Department and are in compliance with U.S. Supreme Court case law. They preserve in the state House and state Senate — and even slightly increase in Congress — the number of African-American “majority-minority” districts that Georgia currently enjoys.
As a result of these efforts, multiple political scientists agree that Georgia has avoided any merited claims of retrogression under the VRA.
Our charge in redistricting was not to preserve the past but to ensure that we reflect Georgia’s present, and guide our state into the future. We have done that.
Despite baseless criticism, the redistricting plans we passed are constitutional and legal and based on the population and political realities that exist today in Georgia.
Rep. Edward Lindsey, R-Atlanta, is the Georgia House majority whip.