Gov. Kemp schedules once-in-a-decade redistricting special session
Lawmakers are now set to gather in November at the Capitol to fulfill their duty of updating district lines to fit with the latest numbers from the U.S. Census Bureau after Gov. Brian Kemp called for a special session. The special session will redraw the state’s congressional, state House, and state Senate maps to fit with the latest census numbers.
Redistricting is required every 10 years to ensure that each legislative district has the same population after the most recent census. The numbers being tracked reflect that Georgia has gained about 1 million people since 2010, primarily in areas surrounding cities, while rural counties have shrunk.
The race is on to get the maps redone before the 2022 election cycle, after the COVID-19 pandemic negatively impacted the 2020 census process. Kemp will need to approve the new maps before candidate qualifications next spring. The new maps will be used by voters across the state in next year’s elections.
Legislators will introduce bills that outline new district boundaries, consider them in committees, hold votes, and send them to Kemp for approval. Many expect the GOP to attempt to build on its leads across congressional and legislative districts during this redistricting process.
The U.S. Supreme Court has permitted the majority to use redistricting to gain a partisan advantage. Political watchers know that the party in charge will tip the scales to help their chances of hanging on to power for the next 10 years. This year’s once-in-a-decade redistricting process will be driven by Georgia’s Republican majority, giving them the ability to draw districts that could gain them a seat in the U.S. House and preserve their dominance in the General Assembly for the next decade. These watchers say Republicans will look to protect their majorities and build on it. Currently, Republicans hold eight of Georgia’s 14 seats in the U.S. House, a 57% majority in the 180-seat state House, and a 61% advantage in the 56-seat State Senate.
As this process unwinds, Republicans hoping to pick up Democratic seats will focus on the metro Atlanta districts belonging to Reps. Lucy McBath and Carolyn Bourdeaux.
Items Kemp failed to mention for review during this special session includes legislation that would revisit election laws passed earlier this year and legislation that would focus on lowering crime. Kemp has maintained a steady drumbeat since he and Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms began sparring on the topic earlier this year.
Many political watchers question Kemp’s commitment to reducing crime, not just in Atlanta, but across Georgia. They say he is disingenuous on the topic if it is not on the November agenda and believe Kemp is deliberately avoiding addressing crime during the special session so he can use the topic as part of his platform to run for re-election to Governor.
Pro-Donald Trump supporters, armed with their false claims of election fraud, are demanding that the governor expand the scope of the special session beyond redistricting. After three ballot counts, multiple investigations, and court challenges they want voting-related legislation and a review of the 2020 results to be on docket. State election officials have repeatedly said there’s no indication of fraud. Trump said Kemp does not want to do that during a recent radio interview. “It’s almost like he’s a Democrat in disguise,” said the former president.
Democrats are also using the timing of the special session to urge Kemp to include Medicaid expansion so more Georgians can have health coverage, which the governor opposes.
The potential vote on Buckhead cityhood is also in the backdrop and may come up during this special session.
Political parties have historically used race as a proxy for party affiliation when drawing maps, but redrawing districts to dilute the power of protected racial minorities is now illegal, so look for whatever comes out of this session to be challenged.