ATLANTA — The state Senate took another step Friday toward completing the once-in-a-decade task of redrawing Georgia’s legislative and congressional districts, approving a map drawn by the House of Representatives.
The Senate’s Republican majority prevailed 32-21 in a vote that fell nearly along party lines.
Earlier this week, the Senate approved a map that redraws its own districts. The House has not yet approved the Senate map, though. as state Sen. John Kennedy, R-Macon, said Friday, there is a longtime understanding that neither chamber will alter or change the other’s proposed maps.
With Republicans holding majorities in the House and Senate, both maps were drawn by GOP legislative leaders. Democrats continued to complain the Republican-led map-drawing processes have been rushed and have not allowed sufficient public input.
Kennedy, who chairs the Senate Reapportionment and Redistricting Committee, said the process of drawing the maps has been fair and devoid of any political gamesmanship or partisanship.
Democrats including Sen. Donzella James, D-Atlanta, vehemently disagreed.
“All Georgians want are fair maps,” James said. “These maps are rushed and are not fair.”
State Sen. Matt Brass, R-Newnan, was the only Republican who voted against the House map after his GOP constituents from northern Coweta County packed committee hearings to complain about the map.
Under the draft, Forsyth County would still be split into two state Senate districts, but the areas would change.
Currently, all of Forsyth County lies in District 27, represented by state Sen. Greg Dolezal, R-Cumming, except the area north of Hwy. 53, which is in District 51, represented by state Sen. Steve Gooch, R-Dahlonega, which includes Dawson, Fannin, Gilmer, Fannin, Union, Lumpkin, White and part of Pickens counties.
Under the Senate proposal, all of Forsyth County would be in District 27, except for an area in south Forsyth approximately between Hwys. 9 and 20 south of the city of Cumming to the county line, which would be part of District 48 along with the city of Johns Creek and northeast Fulton County and the city of Sugar Hill and northwest Gwinnett County.
District 48 is currently represented by state Sen. Michelle Au, D-Johns Creek.
While Forsyth has the same number of current and proposed state Senate districts, Forsyth could gain a state House district.
Currently, Forsyth County lies in parts of five state House districts: 9 in northwest Forsyth, the majority of Dawson and Lumpkin counties, represented by Will Wade, R-Dawsonville; 22 in west Forsyth, east Cherokee and north Fulton, represented by Wes Cantrell, R-Woodstock; 24 in west Forsyth, represented by Sheri Gilligan, R-Cumming; 25 in south Forsyth and north Fulton, represented by Todd Jones, R-South Forsyth; and 26 in east and northeast Forsyth, represented by Lauren McDonald, R-Cumming
In the House plan, Forsyth would increase from five state Representatives to six.
Under the proposal, District 11 would be in northwest Forsyth, northwest Cherokee and Pickens counties, 24 in west Forsyth, 28 in north and northeast Forsyth and into west Hall County, 26 in central and east Forsyth, 25 in south Forsyth and north Fulton and 100 in southeast Forsyth, northwest Gwinnett and southwest Hall counties.
The new House map essentially draws incumbent Republican Rep. Philip Singleton of Sharpsburg out of his district and instead moves northern Coweta into two new districts that include enough of Fulton County to allow Democrats to pick up those seats.
“They’re loud, obnoxious, crazy,” Brass said of the Coweta voters who showed up at the state Capitol. “But they’re my crazies. They’re mine. I’m theirs. One of my constituents back home who’s not happy about his new district told me, ‘Sometimes you have to lose it all to gain something worth having.’ ”
“There’s nothing crazy about the city of Decatur wanting fair representation,” countered state Sen. Elena Parent, D-Atlanta.
Decatur Mayor Patti Garrett appeared before the Senate redistricting committee on Thursday to protest her city’s new legislative district lines.
The House map, which now heads to Gov. Brian Kemp’s desk, likely would result in Democrats gaining up to six seats in the House, according to an independent analysis, reflecting minority population growth during the last decade. Currently, Republicans outnumber Democrats in the lower legislative chamber 103 to 77.
But Democrats and civil and voting rights advocates complained as the map went through the legislature that a fairer map would have set the stage for larger Democratic gains.
While the Senate map is still awaiting House approval, the final step in the redistricting process is redrawing Georgia’s congressional districts.
For Republicans, the key question will be whether to try to regain one of the two congressional seats in Atlanta’s northern suburbs lost to the Democrats during the last two election cycles or go for broke and try to take back both seats.
A congressional map Georgia Senate Republicans released in late September goes after the 6th Congressional District seat Rep. Lucy McBath, D-Marietta, won in 2018 by moving heavily Republican Forsyth County into the district and removing portions of North Fulton and North DeKalb counties more friendly to Democrats.