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By Dave Williams
Capitol Beat News Service
ATLANTA – The once-a-decade process of redrawing Georgia’s congressional and legislative district lines is about to begin.
The state House and Senate committees in charge of redistricting will hold a joint virtual town hall meeting next week to start gathering feedback from Georgia residents.
The June 15 meeting, which will run from 5 p.m. until 7 p.m., will be the first chance for citizens to weigh in on the results they would like to see from the process. The committees are expected to hold additional hearings during the next few months across the state.
By law, states must redraw their congressional and legislative district boundaries every 10 years following the U.S. Census. The process is legally necessary only to accommodate population shifts that have occurred within each state since the last census, so that districts remain as nearly equal in population as possible.
But in reality, redistricting is “the most political activity” in America, said Charles Bullock, a political science professor at the University of Georgia who has written extensively on the subject.
“The majority party invariably comes up with maps to try to maintain its majority status for the next decade,” Bullock said.
In Georgia’s case, it’s the Republicans who will be looking to retain control of the state House and Senate. It promises to be a challenging task, with demographic changes in the Atlanta suburbs having led to gains by Democrats during the last decade.
The GOP also will have to figure out a way to minimize population losses in rural counties where Republicans dominate.
Democrats also have made progress in Georgia’s congressional delegation since the last census, capturing the 6th Congressional District seat north of Atlanta in 2018 and winning the 7th District seat in Atlanta’s northeastern suburbs last year.
For the first time since the 1980s, Georgia will not be allocated an additional congressional seat. Although the state experienced population growth during the last decade, it wasn’t enough to warrant a 15th U.S. House district.
Republicans currently hold eight of Georgia’s 14 congressional seats to six for the Democrats.
Speakers at next week’s meeting will be limited to two to five minutes each. Time limits within that range will be subject to how many people sign up to speak.
Following the public hearings, lawmakers will design and vote on new maps during a special session of the General Assembly later this year. With final census data not expected before September, the session isn’t expected to begin until October at the earliest.