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New maps could boost Hall delegation

Proposed state legislature districts would add three lawmakers to county

POSTED: August 12, 2011 11:26 p.m.

As many as nine state lawmakers could represent Hall County's interests under the Gold Dome if two proposed maps for the state's House and Senate districts are approved.

The maps were made public Friday by the legislative committees tasked with redrawing the state's political boundaries, and will be the focus of debate in a special session of the General Assembly set to begin Monday.

Currently, Hall County has four state representatives and one state senator. The proposal released today would add three representatives and a second senator.

It would make the southern tip Hall County part of two Gwinnett County House districts, one of them creating a new seat.

The eastern edge of the county would become part of a larger House district encompassing Banks and Stephens counties, currently represented by Toccoa Republican Michael Harden.

The western bulb of the county would join a district currently held by Dahlonega Republican Amos Amerson.

Along with the small portion of Hall, Amerson's new district would comprise all of Lumpkin and a large portion of Dawson County.

The new lines would also mean Tommy Benton would no longer represent anyone in Hall County.

Also under the proposal, Sen. Butch Miller, whose current district covers Hall County and reaches south into Jackson County, will lose the Jackson County portion of his district and one Hall County precinct east of Gillsville Highway and Harmony Church Road. Residents there would become part of the Senate district of Cornelia Republican Jim Butterworth.

The proposed maps come after 12 meetings held across the state by the legislature's Joint Redistricting Committee. Lawmakers spent the summer gathering public input and met with other legislators to discuss their districts.

The committee office has been a flurry of activity in the weeks leading up to redistricting. To give members privacy, the windows of the office have been blacked out and redistricting guidelines shield their research from the public record.

Legislative leaders released the proposed maps on the General Assembly website in advance of the special session set to begin Monday. The first public hearings on the maps are set for Tuesday.

Some legislators were getting their first look at the maps Friday.

Senate leaders said Friday their plan was based on input from 51 of the 55 currently-serving senators.

It splits 38 of Georgia's 159 counties and fewer than 50 precincts.

But the real showdown over redistricting could happen in the House, where 20 incumbents would have to face off to keep their seats.

It's the first time Georgia Republicans are in control of redistricting from start to finish.

Democrats vow to oppose the GOP plans, which they claim unfairly target some of their members. Four of the 10 House matchups pit white Democrats against their black colleagues.

Because Georgia is under the jurisdiction of the Voting Rights Act, the maps must be approved by either the U.S. Department of Justice or the federal courts once they are adopted by state lawmakers.

House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams warned earlier this week that Republicans were trying to purge Georgia of white Democrats, which she said was a "cynical misuse" of the Voting Rights Act.

Republican leaders said the maps comply with the landmark civil rights law designed to protect minority voting interests. They argue the process has been more open and transparent than in previous years when Democrats were in control.

Redistricting is required every 10 years to adjust to new census data.

Georgia, now the country's ninth largest state, gained more than 1 million residents and picks up a U.S. House seat this year. The congressional redistricting map has not yet been released.

The new seat is likely to be created in North Georgia in response to the region's population boom. Also bolstering the case for gains in North Georgia: The region is home to the state's three top Republicans, Gov. Nathan Deal, Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and House Speaker David Ralston. South Georgia saw huge population losses, which will result in a loss of representation for the region.

Associated Press contributed to this report.

 



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