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Lawmakers to use first session to prepare for reapportionment, redistricting later this year
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State Sen. Butch Miller, R-Gainesville, left, asks a question during a Dec. 3 Georgia Senate committee meeting about election processes. Photo captured from streaming video of committee meeting. - photo by Megan Reed

The decennial ritual of redrawing district lines for future elections may not be the only issue on lawmakers’ plates during a special legislative session later this year, as it’s possible the legislature’s regular session may be cut short.

The regular session, beginning Monday, Jan. 11, could be shortened out of concerns over COVID-19, which could mean other items that didn’t make the cut could be added to the list in the later session, in addition to redistricting and reapportionment, said state Sen. Butch Miller, R-Gainesville, president pro tempore of the Georgia Senate.

That session would likely take place in late summer or early fall, he said.

Regardless, in the regular session, “we will be preparing for the special session,” added Miller.

Redistricting, or redrawing of district lines, takes place every 10 years and is tied to the U.S. census, the latest of which was performed last year.

Redistricting and the reapportionment, or the process of allocating congressional seats, can be a highly charged political process, particularly if one party holds a majority over all the elected offices — as is the case with Georgia. Republicans are in charge of the state House and Senate, as well as the governor’s office.

In many states, the holders of state legislative seats play a role in drawing new districts for Congress or state legislatures based on the 2020 census. If a political party has control of those state legislative chambers now, it can draw voting districts to boost its chances in future elections.

During a press conference on Thursday, Jan. 7, Georgia House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, acknowledged that the Supreme Court has recognized reapportionment as a “political process,” but he added, “there’s nothing wrong or evil about that.”

The U.S. Census Bureau has said it intends to send redistricting counts to the states “as close to April 1, 2021, as possible” and notes that “this information is used to redraw legislative districts based on population changes.”

For his part, Miller said he is concerned that Georgia  was undercounted in the census and may end up losing a congressional seat.

“That’ll be a key concern,” he said.

An analysis by the Brookings Institution released on Dec. 22 indicates that Georgia should maintain its 14 congressional seats, but that overall in the 2020 census, the U.S. had its lowest annual growth rate since at least 1900.