Political representation: It’s what the census is all about.
For years, public servants and political experts alike have said Georgia is sure to gain more representation in Congress with the 2010 census.
And as census forms reach households across America this month, local and statewide redistricting and decisions on national apportionment are imminent.
Ross Alexander, a political scientist at North Georgia College & State University, said Georgia’s representation in the U.S. House is sure to add one or two from the current 13 districts when the census results are in. And counting more people in Georgia also means more in terms of federal dollars for roads, education and social aid.
“The census is a huge deal, especially for Georgia,” Alexander said. “If we were in a state that didn’t grow in population or lost, it wouldn’t be as much of a deal, but it could very much help us, not only politically, but also, in terms of grants and aid received from the federal government, which we desperately need.”
With turnover in two of Georgia’s congressional districts, there is flexibility in how the congressional lines can be drawn when they’re redrawn, said Charles Bullock, a political scientist at the University of Georgia. But the game in which boundaries are redrawn is one of political power play.
Both U.S. Reps. John Linder, R-7th District, and Nathan Deal, R-9th District, plan to leave Washington this year. Both districts are predominantly Republican.
“Legislators, I suspect, will probably try to draw the districts to protect those two,” Bullock said. “The Linder district has been undergoing some change. It right now seems like a secure Republican district, but when you’re drawing districts, you try to take the longer view and figure out how that district may look in 10 years. You want your party to be able to try to retain it throughout that period.”
It could be that the outcome of the 9th District congressional race plays a role in how Georgia’s congressional lines are redrawn, Bullock said.
If state Sen. Lee Hawkins, R-Gainesville, is not chosen as the new 9th District representative in November, then legislators might redraw the lines of Georgia’s 7th District into parts of Hall County to bolster its Republican strength, swapping out the mostly Republican Hall County residents, who are currently inside the 9th District, with Democratic voters in parts of Gwinnett and Newton counties, which currently lie in the 7th District, Bullock said.
The state legislature won’t take up the redrawing of congressional seats for a few more years, but, politicized as it is, it could be “a very sticky, ugly process,” Alexander said.
“Gerrymandering is a term we traditionally use for the redistricting for partisan advantage, which is much more professionalized today in most states,” Alexander said. “But, still, it still is a partisan wrangling.”
“... It’s always fun to watch, that’s for sure,” he said.