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Proposed state maps signal changes afoot
County may get more say in legislature
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Forsyth County News

Forsyth County could gain more local representation at the state Capitol under proposed redistricting maps released Friday.

The maps show the county adding two seats in the House, for a total of five representatives, and maintaining its two Senate posts.

A couple of the proposed legislative districts, including those of Rep. Mark Hamilton and Sen. Jack Murphy, would include only Forsyth County.

The state House and Senate will meet this week to discuss the maps.

Once the legislature has approved the final versions, the maps must still pass through Congress and the U.S. Department of Justice.

Hamilton, a Republican from Cumming, said it’s important to remember nothing is set in stone.

"This is merely the starting point," he said. "We still have the entire legislative process."

As is the case every decade, the districts are being redrawn to match changes in population as determined by the 2010 U.S. Census.

Forsyth has grown about 78 percent between 2000-10, with a current population of about 175,500. That’s up from about 98,400 in 2000.

To comply with the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the Georgia Legislature’s proposed House and Senate maps feature districts based on population.

On the House map, each district has between 53,287 and 54,352 people. The Senate map has populations that must range between 171,350 and 174,530.

The tremendous growth in the county warranted greater representation, Hamilton said.

"I would like to think that it’s an advantage having five voices [in the House] representing Forsyth County versus only three," he said. "We would certainly have five people that will have a common interest in Forsyth County."

If the proposed House map is approved, Hamilton would see some changes in the areas he represents.

The Republican legislator currently represents central and northwestern Forsyth and eastern Cherokee County.

Under the proposed map, Hamilton would no longer represent any of Cherokee, but would gain the entire city of Cumming, as well as central and western Forsyth.

His district number would also change from 23 to 24.

"It allows me to focus all of my attention on my constituents in the city of Cumming and Forsyth County," Hamilton said. "Although I enjoy tremendously the opportunity to work with Cherokee County because of the similarities, I also look forward to being able to concentrate all my efforts in Forsyth."

Hamilton’s new district, District 24, would be one of two in the House that sits entirely in Forsyth.

The other, District 26, would be new for the county. It would cover the north end of Forsyth and the majority of southern Dawson County.

District 26, which would be up for election in 2012, would also travel south along the county’s eastern edge by Lake Lanier.

Changes are also in store for District 24 state Rep. Mike Dudgeon.

The south Forsyth Republican’s proposed district, whose number would shift to 25, has less of south Forsyth but adds some of north Fulton, mostly in the Johns Creek area.

Dudgeon welcomed the changes.

"I actually go to church in Johns Creek and my Boy Scout Troop I’m involved with is in Johns Creek, so I feel like I’m part of the community already, so I have no objections," he said.

"Overall, I’m happy with our area. I’m happy Forsyth County gets a full new district instead of us getting pieces of other districts."

The other two House districts new to Forsyth would be 22 and 27.

District 22 would include eastern Cherokee, a corner of northwestern Fulton and some of southwestern Forsyth.

As proposed, Forsyth would join northern Hall County and southern White County in District 27.

With the changes, Forsyth would bid farewell to current Republican District 9 state Rep. Amos Amerson of Dahlonega.

The district he represents would continue to include Dawson and Lumpkin counties, but would trade Forsyth for a sliver of Hall.

Though he said he’s disappointed he could lose Forsyth, Amerson said he’s not really going anywhere.

"You don’t just abandon friends because someone changes the line," he said. "Any way that I can help Forsyth County I will continue to do that."

For Sen. Jack Murphy, District 27 would cover just about all of Forsyth if the proposed Senate map is approved.

Murphy, a Republican from Cumming, would no longer represent any of Cherokee, but would gain more of northeastern Forsyth, currently represented by District 51 state Sen. Steve Gooch.

"It’s just business as usual because you’ve still got me representing as Senator and you’ve still got Steve representing as Senator and that’s the way I’d really like it to be worked out so that we have very little change and little adjustment — where the constituents don’t have to adjust and the senators don’t have to adjust either," Murphy said.

"Forsyth is staying whole … and that was my wish and my goal and I’m glad that the reapportionment committee has drawn the maps like they have."

Goooch, who would still represent a small portion of northeast Forsyth, stands to experience the least amount of change.

The Dahlonega Republican would still represent all of Gilmer, Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin and Union counties, shedding only a little of Forsyth and the western half of Pickens County.

"I hate to lose any of my district," Gooch said. "But I was very glad to see that I would stay in Forsyth County and keep working with the local governments and folks in Cumming and Forsyth County."