Redistricting in Georgia could start as late as November, as states across the country wait for 2020 U.S. Census population counts that were delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
State Sen. Butch Miller, R-Gainesville, told The Times that while a date has not been finalized for the Senate’s reapportionment and redistricting session — the once-a-decade process responsible for creating and updating state and congressional district lines — it will take place in early November.
In 2011, the Georgia General Assembly began the redistricting process in August.
Originally, the Census Bureau planned to release its latest data on March 31, capping off a year of data collecting that began on April 1, 2020. However, due to COVID-19’s impact, that data won’t be available until late fall.
For most states, Georgia included, the state legislature has primary control of the redistricting process for both state legislative districts and for congressional districts.
Georgia is one of nine states that does not have a deadline for either legislative or congressional redistricting,
However, when state officials get the final count from the 2020 census, the prospect of Georgia adding another seat in the U.S. House of Representatives is bleak.
“Georgia has 14 congressional seats. The amount of growth that Georgia has seen in the past few years is truly remarkable,” Miller said. “But we’re not growing or gaining any additional congressional seats because the self-response was one of the lowest in the country.”
Georgia was one of the lowest-performing states in terms of census participation, totaling roughly 84%.
Only 62.9% of the state self-reported for the census. Georgia ranked 38th out 50 states and is below the national self-participation rate of 67%.
Hall County’s self-response rate was 65.8%, making it 25th out of all 159 counties.
Miller added that non-response follow-ups, which involved census-takers collecting information door-to-door throughout the state, saw only 37% of late responders reply.
Georgia has grown rapidly over the past decade, but the lack of census participation could leave the state underrepresented and underresourced.
Since 2010, the state’s population has grown by nearly 1 million people to more than 10.7 million in 2020, according to estimates from the Governor’s Office of Planning and Budget.
In 2010, the census counted 179,134 residents in Hall County. In July 2019, the census estimated the county’s population to be at 204,441 residents, an increase of 13% over a nine-year span.
If that change is reflected in the 2020 census data, Hall County’s federal designation will change from “small urban” to “large urban.”
That change would allow the county to have direct access to federally apportioned funds that can be used for schools, roads, hospitals and public works projects for the next decade.
Communities with fewer than 200,000 access federal funding through state agencies instead.
“I find it hard to believe that as much as Georgia is growing that our population did not outpace other states,” Miller said. “I find it extremely disappointing, and I feel like we should have more than 14 congressional seats. But we won’t have that opportunity for another ten years.”
Georgia’s 14th congressional district was created following the 2010 Census and is currently represented by controversial Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene.
Georgia’s 14 congressional seats are split between eight Republicans and six Democrats.