Politics Only “After” The Census? Wouldn’t That Be Nice?

Georgia will pick up an additional Congressional seat according to this article in today’s AJC. The political implication of this are already being contemplated.

If a 14th congressional seat is added in northern metro Atlanta, it could be an opportunity for Democrats to balance Georgia’s U.S. House representation at seven Democrats and seven Republicans.

“Depending on how the maps are drawn, it’s a seat Democrats can compete for,” said Matt Weyandt, executive director of the Democratic Party of Georgia. “So it’s very important to the party that the redistricting process is done fairly and that there’s no funny business.”

Redistricting also would give the state a 16th electoral vote — something that would increase Georgia’s importance in 2012 presidential election and beyond.

The political party that doesn’t get what it wants through this round of redistricting may have to wait until after the next census in 2020 to try and change the state’s political landscape, said University of Georgia political scientist Charles Bullock.

Since it’s initially up to the party that controls the state legislature to determine how a new congressional district is drawn, Republicans will be able to design the district to include as many predominantly Republican voting precincts as they can, Bullock said.

Republicans are already counting on the seat.

“The Georgia Republican Party looks forward to adding more Republican members to the Georgia congressional delegation,” Sue Everhart, chairman of the Georgia GOP, said in a statement.

For Democrats, redistricting makes the governor’s race all the more important, since a Democratic governor could veto any redistricting plan the Republican legislature is expected to submit in 2011.

So if Roy Barnes is indeed the Democratic Gubernatorial Nominee, will Matt Weyandt call on Barnes to repent of his gerrymandering past?

40 comments

  1. AubieTurtle says:

    Gerrymandering is so entrenched in the core of both parties, it hardly seems worth pointing out any of the sins. It’s like the outrage that happens at the end of each presidential administration about pardons by those trying to win points for their party when the last guy from their party did the same garbage.

    I’d be happy if we could just put all the census data into a computer and use least sum of squares to get electoral districts. Of course neither party wants that unless they discover some property of that method gives them more power than the other party regardless of the actual make up of the electorate.

  2. Progressive Dem says:

    Roy Barnes needs to repudiate the terrible reapportionment practices of the past and endorse a non-partisan process as is used in Iowa and several other states. Politicians should not choose their constituents, and elected officials are not entitled to any elected office. They should have to compete for their position. When they get tired of competing, they can go home. If Gov. Barnes wants to demonstrate this is a new Roy Barnes who has learned from his past, this would be a dramatic and powerful decision to reset the political table in Georgia.

  3. macho says:

    The GA GOP really hasn’t gerrymandered all that much. Most of the districts are still drawn from the independent Judge. Now Roy Barnes, and his multi-member districts, were probably the worst case of gerrymandering in the entire country. It takes a lot of gall for the Dems to complain about unfairly drawn districts.

  4. georgiahack says:

    If Barnres is the dem nominee then Matt Weyandt will be out. The guy is a complete tool with no real grasp of Georgia politics, much less reality. The guy is a real embarrassment, much like the most of the staff at the current DPG including their current chair, who, I hope to God, will run agaist Isakson if only to purge her from any real “power”.

    As for the census, the GOP will do what they want. If by some surreal chance that Barnes is elected (please, oh please anoint the ox) then there will be deals to be made but the GOP will still hold almost all the cards. If anything, Barnes will not want to repeat the past and will do anything but overreach and make concession to the GOP leadership.

    I would prefer a system like Iowa, or anything that replaces districts like we had before. If we elect a republican for the Governor’s seat, then I would bet all that I am worth, that we will have more of the same. Especially if that idiot with the horrible comb over is still in charge of the reapportionment committee in the House.

  5. GOPGeorgia says:

    Matt Weyandt, executive director of the Democratic Party of Georgia said “So it’s very important to the party that the redistricting process is done fairly and that there’s no funny business.”

    I started laughing when I read this. Do they think we forgot the maps they put together?

    I like the maps we have now. Communities of interest as drawn together. Counties and precincts are drawn together as much better than they used to be. I’d like to see that trend continue.

    • rugby says:

      “Do they think we forgot the maps they put together?”

      Matt Weyandt drew the maps used in redistricting? Or are all Democrats guilty by association?

      I personally have no problem with gerrymandering per se. It is easier to represent a group of people (you know, the whole point of a representative legislature) if the group is uniform or as homogeneous as possible.

      • GOPGeorgia says:

        The “they” that I was referring to was the previous Dem legislature and Roy. “They” were the ones who passed the previous maps. Instead of the government deciding which party should represent a district by dividing a county, city or precinct in two or more, why not group them together and let the people decide? I have big problems with gerrymandering; regardless of who it “helps.”

          • griftdrift says:

            Fair enough, Jay. But the fact is they created 11 very safe seats (tho you could argue a +1 gain for the Dems) and left two tossup seats. And the two tossup seats just happen to be Democrats. Given this, to say the Republicans were somehow screwed is pretty funny.

    • Lawton Sack says:

      I am happy that GA-09 is heavily Republican, but have you taken a look at GA-12 or GA-2?

      Let me make a few points about GA-12:

      1. It takes 3.5 hours to get from Savannah to Warrenton.

      2. Our elections are usually decided in Savannah (67,000 voters for GA-12 Rep in 2008) and Augusta (45,000 voters), which are much different than the other 20 rural counties that make up the District. Bulloch had the next highest number of voters at 23,000 and Effingham was next at 20,000. Baldwin is the only other county with over 10,000 voters. 17 counties with under 10,000 voters and 10 under 4,000 voters.

      3. They cut out Bryan County, which Bulloch shares a State Representative with.

      4. Three of the GA-12 counties Baldwin (8th), Chatham (1st), and Richmond (10th) are in two different Districts.

      • GOPGeorgia says:

        Take a closer look at GA-9 and you will find that we and GA-12 have a few things in common.

        1.) It takes 3 hours to get from Trenton (Dade County) to Gainesville (Hall County)

        2.) Per 2000 census, Forsyth at 98, 407 residents and Hall at 137, 277 residents have about 35% of the population of the District, with Whitfield having another 12%. Walker and Catoosa are 9% and 8% of the District with none of the other 10 counties having more than 5% of the population.

        3.) I looked at the maps and Bryan county was not “cut out,” IMO. It’s part of the First District along with half of Chatham County and every other county in Georgia that shares part of the Atlantic coast. If that’s not a community of interest, what is?

        4.) Gordon County is part of the Eleventh, and we are missing a few precincts of Forsyth County that are in the Seventh.

        5.) The Voting Rights Act requires that Georgia be drawn not to diminish the voting rights of minorities, requiring that we make some safe seats that have traditionally voted Dem.

        6.) When looking at the state of Georgia as a map, start with the corners Dade, Decatur, Camden, Chatham, and Rabun. Now try to drawn thirteen Districts that keep these counties with other counties of similar interests.

        7.) When I said I liked our maps now, I wasn’t referring to how GOP my district is. With the way north Georgia votes, it’s impossible not to draw a heavy GOP District there. Compare our current map:

        http://georgiainfo.galileo.usg.edu/pdf/gacongress2006color.pdf

        to our previous one:

        http://georgiainfo.galileo.usg.edu/pdf/gacongress2002acolor.pdf

        and

        http://georgiainfo.galileo.usg.edu/pdf/gacongress2002bcolor.pdf

        There’s no reason Dade county and Rockdale county should be in the same district.

      • Ken in Eastman says:

        GA-8 is also a mess. The district stretches from just north of I-20 near Social Circle and Covington to within about 30 miles of the Florida line south of Moultrie.

        Macon and Warner Robins are the two largest cities and dominate the district.

        The 8th has 21 counties, three of which are split: Baldwin (12th), Newton (7th) and Worth (2nd).

        • GOPGeorgia says:

          Ken,

          Did you look at the old maps I posted? The lines aren’t perfect, but they are a heck of a lot better than they used to be.

          The old Third had what looks to five split counties, with the First District and the Eighth District almost cutting it in half. Bibb was the only county in the middle that was not split.

          The old eighth looks like it had had eighteen counties and four of them were not split.

          • AthensRepublican says:

            I used to live in one of the worst State Senate districts. I lived 3 miles from Ralph Hudgens, 2 miles from Brian Kemp and 50 miles from Casey Cagle. I was in Casey Cagle’s old Senate district.

          • Ken in Eastman says:

            I agree it’s much better than before, but I also think we can agree it could be improved, too.

            Maybe some basic rules:

            1 – All municipalities and counties shall not be divided unless their population exceeds the maximum population for a US Congressional District OR it is not possible to draw contiguous Congressional Districts due to following this rule.

            2 – If divided, municipalities and counties shall be divided into the fewest number of districts possible AND maintaining contiguous districts.

            3 – If possible while following rules 1 and 2, the geographic center of a district shall be determined and a line from the geographic center of the district to any other part of the district should not pass through another US Congressional District.

            4 – If possible while following rules 1 and 2, the sitting US Congressman shall not be drawn out of his current US Congressional District.

            Maybe that would help and suggestions are welcome.

          • GOPGeorgia says:

            Ken,

            I like your ideas. However, let me ask a few questions about them (or make a few points.)

            1.) Some counties have much more population in them than others. Is it better to keep those larger counties in one congressional district than to force smaller counties to cover an even larger geographic boundary than what they currently have?

            2.) Pertaining to your point 4, if we were do that perfectly, we would have circles when ignoring county lines and population. We can’t do that practically and we would still have to deal with the gaps between the circles. We are under the voting rights act which states that we cannot diminish minority representation in congress on purpose. I am open to ideas that would allow voters to decide how to accomplish this without drawing “safe” seats for either party.

            3.) I like communities of similar interests grouped together as much as possible, The north GA mountains, the coastal counties, and grouping metro counties together. Cites like Athens, Albany, Valdosta, Macon, Augusta, and Columbus should be in the same District unless part of that county is needed to keep the rest of the District from spreading out too far.

            4.) I’m not so much in favor of drawing the lines to protect a sitting congressman. Let them move or represent them from outside the District. I will agree that it is mean to place 2 congressmen inside the same District to force one of them out, via Barr and Linder.

            5.) I’d like to see an interactive map with current populations so that the average citizen could draw a map and send it in for consideration. What do you think?

          • Ken in Eastman says:

            Hi Doug,

            Thanks for the feedback. This was off the top of my pointed not-so-little head so I knew it would have problems.

            1. I agree with you. I’m not sure how feasible that would be due to the separation of the second/third tier Georgia cities, but I do like the idea.

            2. Actually, no. I thought about that and it’s why I wrote it so that keeping cities and counties whole took precedence over keeping the weight of the districts close together.

            3. I also like the idea of keeping communities of interest together, but it has to have some rational restrictions, like contiguous districts and some restrictions on how far a district can be stretched out.

            4. I’m not that concerned with the seated Representatives. I would like to keep the state legislature and governor from drawing a Congressman out of his district (and legally he can still run but it takes away his geographical base of support).

            5. I like the idea of an interactive map and making (public) suggestions on the districts!

            Thanks!

  6. Andre says:

    FYI, if Roy Barnes is elected governor, the first thing he’ll do is install his own choice for state Democratic Party chair and pick his own executive director.

  7. drjay says:

    well i guess i’ll be roundy castigated for this opinion, but isn’t that part of what winning elections is all about, if your party controls the ledge and the census rolls around, you get to draw maps to your advantage, just like if you win you get to promote your agenda legislativly more so than the losing side, it’s why when the gop won the senate they got to relegate taylor as ltguv to a figurehead for instnace…i agree that horribly weird maps with little tentacles and fingers into and around certain areas is goofy, unseemly even, but within reason isn’t kinda winners choice…

    • GOPGeorgia says:

      When the GOP Senate regulated Taylor to a figurehead and we wanted better maps without the little tentacles and fingers, I would contend that they were doing that for what they thought was best for Georgia, not the just the party.

      That’s one of the big differences between the parties, IMO.

      • rugby says:

        What a shock…one of the biggest differences between the parties is that you think yours is doing things for the benefit of Georgia while the other was just trying to benefit themselves.

        But here is the thing about gerrymandering…if you want rural interests to have a voice (as Lawton mentioned), it is going to be hard to get 600,000 people in a rural area without a bit of tinkering with maps. And if you don’t do that, then effectively you are telling rural folks they won’t have a voice in Congress from Georgia.

    • Ken in Eastman says:

      Umm, maybe it’s because there are more conservatives in the state than liberals?

      Also, I do remember when Dems redistricted and the percentage of GOP votes was not even close to being represented by the number of GOP Congressmen. Hey, I’m just saying.

  8. Progressive Dem says:

    If the goal is draw districts of communities of common interest, the current Congressional districts are a failure.

    OMB defines a Metropolitan Statistical Area as an area of at least 50,000 population, plus adjacent counties that have “a high degree of social and economic integration with the core as measured by commuting ties.” In other words, these are places where the economy has created an area of common interests.

    Metropolitan Savannah, Macon, Augusta, Valdosta and Columbus are split into different congressional districts. The 8th district doesn’t seem to have much cohesion either – it includes parts of Newton, Laurens, Bibb, Houston and Colquitt counties, and parts of 4 different SMAs. In metro Atlanta we have the 13th district, which defines gerrymandering. It is no more a community of common interests than a menagerie. Cobb County is split evenly among 3 districts.

    Congressional districts shouldn’t float around with shifting demographics with the goal of keeping an incumbent in office. If war is too important to be left to generals, certainly reapportionment is too important to be left to politicians. A new set of rules needs to be established for reapportionment.

    • Doug Deal says:

      Sadly, neither side has actually been responsible on the reaportionment issue. Remember King Roy and his 3 member districts for Republicans who also had 5% larger than average population per representative that got it all thrown out in the first place.

      Perhaps we need to go to at-large elections where each person gets only one vote and have the top x candidates win election.

  9. GAModernWhig says:

    I can’t believe this is even a debate, though I would say I saw some sexy “actual” statistical data which is a step up for discussions such as these…so kudos for that. Sometimes you can be so close to the problem you stop seeing clearly. Redistricting should be done by a non-partisan group period. Just like Judges shouldn’t have to raise campaign funds, or be politically linked. When politics affect the non-political functions of government we have a problem…btw….we have a problem (I’ll let you all catch your breath). Judging by some of the responses above some are so close to the issue they don’t see whats wrong with that.

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