The proposed Georgia congressional map released Monday further divides Forsyth County, much to the dismay and disappointment of local officials who had hoped to close that gap.
Forsyth’s Republican, Democratic and Tea parties, as well as its state legislators, had pushed for the entire county to be in one congressional district. Instead, the proposed map cuts it nearly in half.
"I’m extremely disappointed in the way the map is drawn and the way they split Forsyth County. I wanted Forsyth County to [be] whole," said District 27 state Sen. Jack Murphy.
"Nothing’s a done deal until we vote on things, but … I don’t know at this point how much we can affect a change, if we can affect a change. But I’m certainly going to talk with some people and see if we can."
Under the current setup, most of Forsyth County is in District 9, with some of its south end in District 7.
The proposed map puts more of south Forsyth in District 7 and all of north Forsyth in a reconfigured District 9, which would be an open seat.
Murphy said the state legislature would likely spend the week reviewing the maps and contemplating changes. A vote could come next week.
As is the case every decade, the map is being redrawn to match shifts in population as determined by the 2010 U.S. Census.
The state’s total population is nearly 9.7 million, meaning each congressional district should have 691,975 voters.
"Each of the 14 districts has no more than one person, more or less, than the ideal size," said District 23 state Rep. Mark Hamilton, R-Cumming.
Because of its growth, Georgia is gaining one congressional seat.
The proposed map places the new seat in District 9, with current Republican U.S. Rep. Tom Graves shifting into District 14.
As proposed, District 9 would be made up of 17 counties, including all of Hall, Dawson and Lumpkin, as well as the northern half of Forsyth and parts of Clarke and Pickens counties.
Forsyth County Tea Party Founder Steve Voshall said the open seat likely had a large role in dividing Forsyth instead of other counties.
"This map is very disturbing and is exactly what we asked our legislators not to let happen," he said. "This is our payback for turning out large numbers at the polls in years past.
"The Hall County politicians covered their backs to assure the new congressman will be from Hall."
Meanwhile, District 7 will include more of south Forsyth.
Ethan Underwood, chairman of the local Republican Party, said the map is great for the state but detrimental to Forsyth.
"We’re going to end up with 10 out of 14 Republicans in Washington, D.C. ... but unfortunately, Forsyth County is bearing the burden on this," he said.
"Another problem it creates is something we’ve been trying to mend — to bridge the differences in south Forsyth, which has experienced so much growth the last few years, and north Forsyth, which still has a lot of its rural character. And I’m afraid this congressional map is just going to exacerbate those differences."
Hamilton said bringing Forsyth together was his first choice, one he backed on behalf of his constituents.
He said he plans to review the map and make requests, but noted splitting Forsyth between two congressional districts may not be all bad.
If the map is approved as is, Forsyth would get two votes on the state transportation board, he said.
"It would give us more say as far as our department of transportation board members," he said. "My House district would have part of my constituents in the Seventh District and part of my constituents would be in the Ninth, so I think this gives me the ability to have a close relationship with both congressmen, versus only one."
But Sharon Gunter, who chairs the Forsyth County Democratic Party, is not convinced.
Forsyth has less in common with the northeast Georgia counties, Gunter said. In addition, important local issues like water, traffic and growth could get lost in the shuffle of the reshaped District 9.
"Whoever our congressional representative is, is going to have a very difficult time representing one section of that district without a conflict in another section," she said.
"It’s going to be very difficult to satisfy everybody. He’s going to be voting against himself on just about every issue."