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Deal signs new state House map for Hall County

Department of Justice has 60 days to raise questions on districts

POSTED: February 23, 2012 11:30 p.m.

A new configuration of state House districts in Hall County made a swift move out of the Capitol on Thursday, earning the approval of both the Senate and Gov. Nathan Deal.

Deal signed the bill, which anchors three districts in Hall County and splits one open seat with Gwinnett, late Thursday afternoon.

Hall is home to both Deal and Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle. Deal specifically lobbied for the changes to the district lines last year.

After he signed the amended map, Deal issued an emailed statement through his spokesman, Brian Robinson.

"This new map better represents the interests of Hall County, keeping communities of interest together and anchoring more seats within county lines," the statement read. "The legislature has done an excellent job on redistricting throughout this entire process."

The Senate hadn't planned on voting on the new map Thursday, but Sen. Butch Miller, R-Flowery Branch, said it came up — and passed — as a last-minute item.

The map seeks to correct what locals called a dilution of power for Hall County in the state House. A map passed last summer split Hall among seven House districts, most of which were anchored outside the county.

"The definition of a good deal is when no one gets 100 percent of what they want, but everyone gets something," Miller said. "The original map split Hall into seven districts but now it's reduced to four and that is a tremendous improvement. Although there are probably still people who are somewhat unhappy, surely they're pleased with the improvement."

The Justice Department has 60 days from the date a state submits a voting change to decide if it complies with Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act and doesn't disenfranchise minorities. And that time frame is only if the Justice Department has no questions about Georgia's submission.

If the state hasn't had a favorable report from the Justice Department by the time candidates qualify for election to the state House this May, then candidates will run on the districts as they were passed last summer, according to the committee amendment.

In Hall, that backup scenario means that seven people would represent parts of the county in the state House.

It would add three House districts into Hall, most of which have been drawn in a way that keeps Hall residents in the minority, a change that some local leaders have called a dilution of the county's power.

It would mean East Hall voters would belong to a district mostly made up of Banks and Stephens counties. Some West Hall voters would be part of a district largely composed of Lumpkin and Dawson counties.

South Hall, too, would be divided among two majority Gwinnett County districts.

The four-member districts then wouldn't become a reality until 2014, provided the Justice Department signs off.



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