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Divided district may cut Hall out of House seat

Gwinnett has more voters in proposed region, but big subdivisions carry weight

POSTED: February 11, 2012 11:55 p.m.

It's possible Hall County could elect its own representative in a proposed new state House of Representatives district.

But a few statistics show that it isn't a lock, since the population of the proposed new district is anchored in Gwinnett County.

Georgia senators will consider amending Hall's House district lines this week. State House members have approved the new boundaries.

Under the proposal, Hall County would have four representatives in the state House, three of them based mostly in Hall. The other, District 103, would be shared with Gwinnett.

The way the boundaries are drawn, Gwinnett would be home to about 61 percent of the district's 2010-era total population of 53,533.

At full force, Gwinnett's voting power is strongest. In 2010, the Gwinnett portion of the district had 16,765 registered voters scattered across six voting precincts, according to numbers provided by the legislative reapportionment office.

Registered voters from four precincts in Hall made up about 42 percent of the district in 2010.

And while the numbers seem weighted in favor of a Gwinnett County candidate, voters in South Hall may be more active, and if you ask the local delegation, perhaps more likely to come out for their candidate.

State lawmakers from Hall are already predicting a candidate from their county will seek the seat.

Rep. Carl Rogers of Gainesville, the dean of the Hall legislative delegation, said he knows someone from Gwinnett is already planning to run for the seat.

But Rogers calls the new district "an opportunity for someone from Hall to run" for the House. Though Gwinnett has the most voters, Sen. Butch Miller says Hall has the most active voters.

Rep. Emory Dunahoo also says Capitol staff have showed him statistics that Hall County voters are more active than their Gwinnett counterparts in the proposed 103.

In the 2010 election, voters from the Hall precincts in the district showed up at a slightly higher rate than those in the six Gwinnett precincts. Still, the Gwinnett precincts brought in 1,066 more voters, according to elections data.

"When you look at votes that have been cast, you see that you have a stronger turnout in votes in Hall County than in Gwinnett," said Miller, who lives in Flowery Branch.

"Largely, that's due to the fact that the Gwinnett vote is very diluted and very dispersed in terms of communities with commonality."

By that, Miller refers to the massive subdivisions in South Hall, such Reunion, Sterling on the Lake and the Village at Deaton Creek.

Rogers said he expects a candidate will arise from one of those densely populated neighborhoods.

When a vacancy opened up in the House late last year after James Mills accepted a post on the Pardons and Paroles board, residents of both Sterling on the Lake and Reunion were in the running.

If someone from there does run in District 103, Rogers doesn't doubt that members of the South Hall community will support their neighbor.

"There's a huge population in both of those subdivisions," Rogers said. "They seem to be very active down there."

One of the precincts on the Hall side of the proposed new district, dubbed Friendship I, is one of the most active in Hall County. Among its voters are residents of the Village at Deaton Creek and Reunion.

"They're very active," said Hall's Elections Director Charlotte Sosebee. "They realize just how important their voting is. It's a growing area — it's very populated — and they're letting their voices be heard."

And one thing about a candidate from a community like the Village at Deaton Creek, Rogers said, is that he or she might have moved from Gwinnett to Hall with connections that would make a candidate attractive to voters on both sides of the county line.

Whoever seeks the seat, Rogers said, would have to start early.

If the Senate approves the new district boundaries this week, the changes still await Gov. Nathan Deal's signature. The map then would need preclearance from the U.S. Department of Justice under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act.

If all that happens in time, a prospective candidate would qualify for election to the seat in May.

Dunahoo, like Rogers, says he's met the man from Gwinnett who plans to seek the new seat. And he says that potential candidate doesn't plan to waste any time.

"That guy is probably going to announce pretty quick, "Dunahoo said. 



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