Category: Reapportionment

Libertarian Support Dissolves at the Polls

For all the speculation of a Libertarian candidate pushing two of the nation’s most-watched political races into a runoff, neither Andrew Hunt or Amanda Swafford were ever a factor in Tuesday night’s elections.

Libertarian support dissolved completely at the polls, allowing both Gov. Nathan Deal and David Perdue to cruise to comfortable victories.

As a result, Democrats in Georgia will continue to wander in the political wilderness for at least the next decade. Even with two election cycles between now and 2020, Democrats will not be able to gain enough clout under the Gold Dome to play an influential role in the next big political battle – redistricting, as mandated every time a Census is conducted.

For 2018, expect state Rep. Stacey Abrams and Secretary of State Brian Kemp to take their battle over voter registration to the governor’s race. Both have to be considered leading candidates in what will become an open gubernatorial contest in four years.

Georgia’s Ten Most Vulnerable Democratic (and/or Independent) Districts

To restate some of what I wrote yesterday in my post entitled “10 Most Vulnerable Republican Districts”:

There are a hundred ways to determine how vulnerable a legislative district is for a takeover by the opposing political Party.

Just because a district or a legislator appears on this list does not mean that they are in political trouble.  It does generally mean that the legislators who represent these districts must be able to find ways of winning over voters from the opposing Party.

These rankings are not a statement about the legislator who represents them. This ranking is simply a mathematical formula that determines how strong or weak a district is compared to all the other districts in the state.

The following is a list of Democratic House members representing districts in which Republicans can win a majority, or a significant percentage, of the vote. Of all the Democratic-held districts in Georgia, these 10 Democratic-held districts have the highest capacity for Republicans to win votes, a figure that is stated in the right column: The Democratic Ideal.

The Republican Ideal is the average of multiple election results within each district for the best-performing statewide (non-Presidential) Republican candidates in 2006, 2008 or 2010.

Thanks to Mike Seigle, Gabriel Sterling, Mark Pettitt and Andrew Pantino here at Landmark for researching and contributing to this targeting report. Doing a report like this requires hundreds of man-hours, accumulating thousands of pieces of information including election results, voter history, and geographic and demographic information.

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Ten Most Vulnerable Republican Districts in Georgia

As mentioned in other rankings, there are a hundred ways to determine how vulnerable a legislative district is for a takeover by the opposing political Party.

Just because a district or a legislator appears on this list does not mean that they are in political trouble.  It does generally mean that the legislators who represent these districts must be able to find ways of winning over voters from the opposing Party.

These rankings are not a statement about the legislator who represents them. This ranking is simply a mathematical formula that determines how strong or weak a district is compared to all the other districts in the state.

The following is a list of Republican House members representing districts in which Democrats can win a majority, or a significant percentage, of the vote. Of all the Republican-held districts in Georgia, these 10 Republican-held districts have the highest capacity for Democrats to win votes, a figure that is stated in the right column: The Democratic Ideal.

The Democratic Ideal is the average of multiple election results within each district for the best-performing statewide (non-Presidential) Democratic candidates in 2006, 2008 or 2010.

Thanks to Mike Seigle, Gabriel Sterling, Mark Pettitt and Andrew Pantino here at Landmark for researching and contributing to this targeting report. Doing a report like this requires hundreds of man-hours, accumulating thousands of pieces of information including election results, voter history, and geographic and demographic information.

Tomorrow we’ll release the Top Ten List of Most Vulnerable Democratic Districts.

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A Tri-Partisan Reapportionment Meeting To Be Held In Forsyth

In Forsyth County, the Republican Party, the Democratic Party and the Tea Party are hosting a meeting on reapportionment.

While it is extremely rare for Democrats, Republicans and Tea Party members to agree on any issue, leaders of all three organizations are firmly united in their belief that Forsyth County should not be split up into multiple voting districts. The General Assembly meets in special session next month to redraw the state’s political boundaries.

“The lines will be drawn for the next 10 years and we need to be able control our own destiny,” (Tea Party Founder Steve Voshall) said. “We’re unified in the commitment we have from all parties.”

Asked if he was surprised by that unity, Voshall said, “Not at all. It’s refreshing that different parties with different ideas can come to a mutual agreement. It’s too bad it can’t be done at the national level.”

The meeting will he held at the Forsyth County Administration Building at 6:30 p.m. on Aug. 8

Interest Groups Are “Staking Out Positions” On Redistricting

Walter Jones writes in the Augusta Chronicle about the number of special interest groups expressing positions on redistricting and the increased tension (mostly among Democrats) in the Legislature over the drawing of maps.

A number of special interest groups want politics taken out of the process, while Latino groups want some district drawn for them. Democrats in the House are holding their own hearings and Senator Vincent Fort is mad at Sen. Mitch Seabaugh.

Sue Everhart explains why this reapportionment process is different than the Democratic-led effort ten years ago.

GOP State Chairwoman Sue Everhart says there’s two pragmatic reasons for expecting Republicans to produce fair maps. First, they don’t need biased districts to keep them in power.

“We own more of the real estate than the Democrats owned in the last redistricting,” she said. Second, biased maps are bad luck for the majority party.

“We saw what happened to those maps drawn by the Democrats last time,” she said. “History tells you that when you draw unfair maps, you lose.”

Reapportionment Meetings Today At 2 PM

Today at 2 PM the House and Senate Reapportionment Committees will hold meetings at the Capitol.

ATLANTA – The House Legislative and Congressional Reapportionment Committee will meet Wednesday, July 20th, 2011 at 2:00 PM. The meeting will be held in Room 606 of the Coverdell Legislative Office Building across from the State Capitol.

To watch a live video stream of the meeting, log onto www.legis.ga.gov, then click on the link to the Joint Webpage for the House and Senate Reapportionment Committees. Meeting video will be available in the Video Archives section of the webpage by noon the following day.

Stateline.org had an article yesterday about the reapportionment process.

To win preclearance, states have to show that they’ve avoided “retrogression” — that minority voting power won’t diminish as a result of the changes they’re making. While that’s a relatively narrow rule compared to other portions of the Voting Rights Act, it still comes with major consequences. For example, Alaska’s legislative redistricting this year was defined by the struggle to preserve Native American seats, despite the population stagnation in rural areas where those seats are located. “Being one of the nine states that’s covered in full in the Section 5 umbrella,” says Taylor Bickford, executive director of the Alaska Redistricting Board, “really drives the process up here.” …It’s also driven redistricting in the South for decades now.

Politifact Debunks Cries From Democrats About Reapportionment

I suppose it’s not really news when a statement by Senator Robert Brown is deemed to be “barely true” but since it deals with reapportionment and Brown is not the only Democrat whining about how unfair it all is I thought it worthy of a post.

Politifact takes issue with Brown’s statement that Democrats have been shutout of the reapportionment process.

We have trouble with Brown’s comment that Democrats had “no input” in location of the hearings because all members of the Georgia Legislature were asked for suggestions of sites. Some of the sites are in largely Democratic terrain such as Atlanta, Albany, Columbus and Macon.

As for Brown’s point about being left out of the process, his argument is based on not being asked to speak at the hearings and how Seabaugh has asked other lawmakers for input. Seabaugh did ask lawmakers not to ask or answer questions. Seabaugh has written letters to lawmakers asking them for their ideas or concerns about reapportionment.

Brown’s claim and argument ignore some critical facts we believe will give the casual reader a different impression of this issue.

We rate his claim Barely True.

Que the Democratic sock puppets in 3, 2, 1…..

An Odd Hobby?

Some people are into birdwatching, other people put ships into bottles.  Apparently former Rep. Kevin Levitas gets his kicks writing legislative session newsletter updates as if he were still in the General Assembly.  Some background: Levitas was the Democrat who ran for House District 82 in 2004 and 2006, losing the first time by about 100 votes and winning the second time by a larger margin.  He was re-elected in 2008 and qualified to run in 2010, only to change his mind after qualifying ended a few weeks later.  Due to a bad precedent established previously by Karen Handel when SD 13 in Southwest Georgia needed a candidate after qualifying and only Republicans had qualified, a special qualifying period in HD 82 was opened up for Democrats only.  Scott Holcomb, a former candidate for Secretary of State in 2006 and all around nice guy was the only Democrat to run, and after a failed attempt to launch a right leaning write in campaign, he won the seat unopposed in the November election.

Fast forward to now.  With redistricting looming, Levitas feels the need to scratch the itch and send out a constituent update to his old list.  If you are so inclined, you can read it here.  What’s the deal?  Is Levitas angling for his old seat as a Democrat?  Does he want to now run as a Republican?  Does he think Anne Lewis is penciling in a new district for him?  Does he know something we don’t – like that Holcomb’s house is going to be combined with someone else and the old district will be vacant?  Most Democrats I know (including yours truly) would support Holcomb in a contested race, whether it’s a primary or general election.  Levitas is a smart guy, but he never seemed that into the necessary political things you have to be into to be an elected official.  Maybe distance and going back to your boring day job makes the heart grow fonder.  Has the first shot of the wacky battle known as redistricting been fired?  I suppose time will tell.

Congressman Lynn Westmoreland a Power Broker in Redistricting

Congressman Lynn Westmoreland has been tagged as the point person within the House Republican caucus to handle redistricting, but will also be the leader in the Georgia delegation for redistricting.  From RollCall:

House Republicans have tasked Westmoreland with overseeing redistricting for their entire caucus for good reason. Westmoreland has extensive experience with mapmaking in his home state, which redrew the Congressional boundaries twice in the past decade. At least three seats are at stake for Republicans, who will likely attempt to draw a safe GOP seat in the new 14th district, shore up GOP margins in the district of freshman Rep. Austin Scott (R) and move more Republicans into Democratic Rep. John Barrow’s competitive district. No one in the Georgia delegation has relationships with the in-state redistricting players like Westmoreland. He is a former state House Minority Leader and is close with Gov. Nathan Deal (R), his former House colleague whom he endorsed early in a crowded GOP primary last year. As governor, Deal will have veto power over the final map submitted to the Justice Department for approval. What’s more, former Westmoreland aide Bryan Tyson has been hired by the state Legislature and will be heavily involved in drawing the new maps. Tyson was also very involved in the 2005 GOP-led redrawing of Congressional boundaries.

Sounds like that whoever wants to be the gentleman from Georgia’s 14th district (or whoever wants to challenge Congressman Barrow and potentially other Democrats) should start sweet talking Congressman Westmoreland.

UPDATE:  Here’s some interesting stuff from the Politico:

HUDDLE SCOOP: GEORGIA REMAP JUST PEACHY FOR GOP — Georgia Rep. Lynn Westmoreland, who heads up national redistricting efforts for House Republicans, has been meeting one on one with members of his state’s delegation to discuss the redrawing of their districts. Westmoreland and Rep. Sanford Bishop (D-Ga.) huddled outside the House chamber with a Peach State map on Wednesday. Georgia’s picking up a seat, which surely will be drawn to the GOP’s advantage. In addition, Republicans really hope they can eliminate a Democratic-held seat from the southern part of the state, where several districts need to add population. In an ideal world, Republicans would shore up the districts of freshman Rep. Austin Scott, who beat longtime Democratic Rep. Jim Marshall in 2008, and veteran Rep. Jack Kingston, as well as the southwestern turf represented by Rep. Sanford Bishop (D-Ga.), for whom legal challenges could be raised if minority voting strength is diluted by a new map. In turn, that would leave Democratic Rep. John Barrow without a seat. As one Republican put it to Huddle, “When the music stops, Barrow isn’t going to have a chair.” Of course, it’s the state legislature that draws the districts, but a unified Georgia delegation could influence that process. And, as a kicker, there’s little love lost between barrow and senior members of the Congressional Black Caucus. After he voted against the president’s health care law, then-Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.), the highest-ranking African American in Congress, traveled to Barrow’s district to sing the praises of the overhaul to Barrow’s constituents. The Georgia Democrat, whose district runs roughly from Athens to Savannah, also thumbed his nose at Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi by voting for Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) for Speaker, rather than Pelosi, at the opening of the 112th Congress.

Reapportionment Hearing Schedule Announced.

A joint House/Senate Reapportionment committee will hold a series of public hearings around Georgia. Below is the list of locations.

PUBLIC HEARING SCHEDULE:
(All public hearings are from 5 – 7 PM)

Monday, May 16, 2011
Seney-Stovall Chapel
201 North Milledge Avenue
Athens, GA 30602
(706) 542-2736, (706) 542-5041
www.cviog.uga.edu/chapel
Free parking available

Tuesday, May 17, 2011
Augusta State University
Jaguar Student Activities Center Ballroom
2500 Walton Way
Augusta, Georgia 30904
Public Information Office: 706-737-1444
Directions: www.aug.edu – at the top of page: Index, type in D (for directions)
Free Parking

Wednesday, May 18, 2011
Armstrong Atlantic State University
Armstrong Center
13040 Abercorn Street
Savannah, Georgia 31419-1955 (912) 344-2555
http://www.armstrong.edu/Departments/armstrong_center/armstrong_ctr_directions
Free Parking available

Other Dates and Cities: (specific locations to be determined)
Monday, May 23 – Albany
Tuesday, May 24 – Valdosta
Monday, June 6 – Columbus
Tuesday, June 7 – Cartersville
Monday, June 13 – Macon
Tuesday, June 14 – Stockbridge
Monday, June 20 – Dalton
Tuesday, June 21 – Gainesville
Thursday, June 30 – Atlanta

Kingston plays down concerns of Georgia Dems

With Georgia Democrats haven taken issue with the way the redistricting process was being handled. Republican legislative leaders had created a Legislative and Congressional Reapportionment Office and are using the lawyer of the state GOP to advise employees from the Carl Vinson Institute on the process.

The Hill reports that Rep. Jack Kingston is brushing off Democrats’ concerns:

Kingston said there was no plan to dramatically tilt the boundaries in his party’s favor and noted that Democrats didn’t use a soft touch when Gov. Roy Barnes (D) was in power after the last Census in 2000.

“You might tilt your side here or there to protect an incumbent or two, but I think the Democrats are being a bit premature,” he told The Ballot Box. “And I’m just wondering where they were when Roy Barnes was making ink splatters all over the state?

“We had an opportunity to act like Roy Barnes and the Democrats did, but we have not taken that,” the congressman added. “We resisted that. We’ve showed that you could actually do it tempered and be fair.”

Kingston labeled the Democrats’ complaints sour grapes after years of coming up short on Election Day.

“If they got a gripe that thing’s being too partisan in the state of Georgia, it’s called the general electorate,” he said. “We’ve gone from being a Democrat state to a Republican state and they know that and can’t stand it.”

Democrats have a valid concern here, but we’re going to see the maps go through the judicial process anyway. Whatever influence a Republican lawyer has in the process, though potentially concerning, probably isn’t going to matter much in the end.

Outsource Redistricting? Why not?

Updated: In the comments, Common Cause Georgia requested I link to their Georgia organization, rather than the national one. Link fixed.

Jim Walls, publisher of the  investigative website Atlanta Unfiltered reported “discussions” that the Georgia Legislature may hire Troutman Sanders Strategies to draw help create the new district maps required (by law) every 10 years. Nobody’s actually said so, but here’s the money quote:

Hiring Troutman Sanders Strategies has not been announced but may already have been decided.

I think it is, but I haven’t got a final roundup on it so I don’t know,” said House Reapportionment Chairman Roger Lane (R-Darien).

This potential change has the folks over at Common Cause in a swivet. “Georgia for Sale?” they ask in a panicked blog post about the issue. Nothing scares the goo-goos* like lobbyists getting a contract. But I have to ask: why would anyone think this is somehow a bad idea?

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Apportionment Data Release Day Open Thread

It’s your early Christmas Non-Denominational Winter Solstice Celebration present from the U.S. Census that comes around every 10 years.  The numbers are to be released today at around 11a.  Discuss the changes to our state including our additional (maybe 2, if we’ve been really good) congressional seat and changes coming to other states.  Political geeks rejoice!

::OPEN THREAD::

UPDATE:
Here’s the table with the apportionment data.  Georgia gains a seat and each congressman in the 113th Congress will be representing an additional 63,520 citizens (going from 631,306 citizens per congressman in 2000 to 694,826 citizens per congressman in 2010).

WaPo on redistricting in Georgia

Here is an interesting article from the Washington Post on redistricting in Georgia, specifically touching on how it will affect John Barrow and Sanford Bishop:

Of the five remaining Democratic districts, three of them are in heavily black — and heavily Democratic — areas of Atlanta. The GOP probably won’t be able to do much with these districts, besides make small changes that would help nearby Republicans.

That leaves Barrow and Bishop. But taking them out won’t be easy either — especially in the case of Bishop.

Both come from seats that are close to half black; Barrow’s district had a 44 percent African American population at last check, while Bishop’s was 47.5 percent black. The districts technically aren’t covered under the Voting Rights Act (since they don’t include a majority of black voters), but they are so close to gaining that status that Democrats and black leaders could pressure Republicans to keep the black vote strong in those districts.

In a Republican dream scenario, they could try to draw both Barrow and Bishop tougher districts, by borrowing GOPers from strongly Republican districts held by Reps. Jack Kingston, Lynn Westmoreland and Paul Broun.

A more likely scenario, though, is that Republicans actually shore up Bishop, potentially turning his district into a majority-black district, and use the more Republican areas of his district to help shore up Rep.-elect Austin Scott (R), who just beat Marshall next door. Once they do that, they need to decide whether they want to go after Barrow.

The GOP could strengthen Bishop by moving the heavily black parts of Macon (from Scott’s 8th district) and Valdosta (from Kingston’s 1st district) into Bishop’s 2nd district in the southwest.

There is much more here, including a mention of shoring up Congressman-elect Austin Scott’s district. It’s well worth a read.