The State Senate passed the new congressional districts a few moments ago:
The Senate has approved Georgia’s proposed new congressional boundaries, bringing a speedy end to a contentious once-a-decade redistricting process, the first under Republican control.
The Senate approved the congressional plan by a 34-21 vote, split along partisan lines. Republicans say all of the plans will pass muster with the federal government, while Democrats vow a legal challenge to the maps, saying the plans dilute minority voting strength and accusing their colleagues of political gerrymandering.
The map now heads to Gov. Nathan Deal for his signature and the legislature will head home until January; however, it’s likely that the districts will be challenged in court by Democrats.
Charlie alluded to this earlier, but the redistricting tweaks aren’t just rumors anymore as the House Reapportionment Committee made some changes today (the new maps are below the fold):
The tweaks came amid continued Democratic protests that Republicans, who control both chambers of the Legislature and the governor’s office, were purposely diluting the power of minority voters. Among those objecting: U.S. Rep. John Lewis, whose 5th District stands to lose a portion of the city of Atlanta.
“Elimination of multiracial coalitions was not and has never been the goal of the Voting Rights Act,” the Democrat told members of the House redistricting committee.
“Regardless of who should be in the White House, regardless of who should be in Congress, I do strongly believe our great capital city would be well-served” by having both Democratic and Republican representation, said Rep. Edward Lindsey, R-Atlanta. Drawing Lewis out of the city’s affluent Buckhead area, where Lindsey lives, was “not in any way meant to be disrespectful to you. You’ve been a good advocate,” he told the civil rights icon.
Earlier today the AJC reported that an agreement had been reached to move the TSPLOST from July 2012 to the general election. But according to the press release from Gov. Nathan Deal’s office that just landed in my inbox, that has fallen apart:
The governor today reached a joint decision with House and Senate leadership to suspend further consideration of legislation to move the date for T-SPLOST referendum.
“We’ve had a healthy debate on the T-SPLOST referendum date here at the Gold Dome,” Deal said. “I’m a supporter of the referendum, and I believe it’s important to job creation and economic development throughout Georgia. I further believe that it is a sound conservative principle to allow as many taxpayers as possible to participate in this important decision. Our time during this special session, however, is precious, and it’s now obvious that it will take too much time to reach a consensus on changing the date. It’s best for taxpayers that we not let this special session drag on. Redistricting was our priority, and we have delivered a great product.”
Also, Deal’s objections to the way the districts were drawn in Hall County are apparently a non-issue now since he signed the new maps for the Georgia General Assembly into law.
Rep. Edward Lindsey, an attorney, is regarded as one of the smartest guys in the House. He’s released an e-Newsletter this weekend covering the legal talking points on the House redistricting map that passed this week. I don’t normally copy/paste things to PeachPundit, but this is essential reading for those who want more than a 30,000-foot aerial view of redistricting.
By Representative Edward Lindsey, Georgia House Majority Whip:
1. Does the Redistricting Plan for the Georgia House of Representatives (HB 1EX) violate the Federal Voting Rights Act (VRA)? No
“The redistricting plan passed by the Georgia House on August 18, 2011, was created in accordance with guidelines issued by President Obama’s Justice Department and creates 49 African American “majority-minority” districts, which are the same number that exist at the present time. This will keep us in full compliance with the VRA. In addition, we will have for the first time a Hispanic Majority Minority district.
By contrast, the alternative proposal presented to the House Reapportionment Committee by the Democratic Party through its caucus leadership on August 16, 2011 only maintained 43 African American “majority-minority” districts according to the testimony of the House Minority Leader. If true, their plan is likely retrogressive and in violation of Section 5 of the VRA. Furthermore, the alternative plan created by the Democratic Party has four districts with African American populations that are 80+%. This would also likely be considered unlawful packing under the VRA.