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Remap keeps most Hall voters grouped together
Proposal leaves some Hall voters in Gwinnett district
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Under a newly proposed map in Georgia's House of Representatives, Hall County would have four state House representatives — three less than the seven a map drawn last summer gave the county.

Georgia lawmakers are expected to make some revisions to voting districts for representation in the state's House of Representatives this week.

The proposed changes are mostly centered on districts in Hall County and Carroll County.

They have been proposed by Rep. Roger Lane, R-Darien, the chairman of the House's committee on reapportionment. Lane will defend the changes in a committee hearing this afternoon.

If Lane's proposal gets the approval of the reapportionment committee and the whole of the House of Representatives, it will no doubt be approved by Georgia's senators.

The changes follow complaints from Hall County's delegation that a map drawn last year for the state diluted Hall County's power in the statehouse.

The map, which received the U.S. Department of Justice's approval just before Christmas, added three representatives to the Hall County delegation.

It was designed last summer as Georgia's lawmakers took on the once-a-decade task of redrawing voting districts to match population data collected by the U.S. Census.

Hall County currently has four representatives in the state House. Most of those representatives' districts are either wholly in Hall or are mostly located in the county, though there is one district that is composed mostly of Jackson County voting precincts.

The map approved last summer lumped East Hall voters in a district that was mostly made up of Banks and Stephens counties. It siphoned off some West Hall voters to a district that is largely composed of Lumpkin and Dawson counties. South Hall, too, was divided among two majority-Gwinnett County House districts.

Though lawmakers from Hall said they were fighting for the changes to the map, all voted in favor of it during a special session in August. Each said he had a promise from House leadership to revisit the maps in January.

Lane introduced the bill calling for the changes late last week.

His proposal keeps Hall County's number of House delegates at four, cutting Hall voters out of the bigger districts in Banks, Stephens, Dawson and Lumpkin counties.

The proposed changes do leave some Hall voters in a district with Gwinnett County voters, however.

Lane's map lumps some voters from Hall County's Buford precinct (Roberts) and all those from the precincts at Chestnut Mountain Presbyterian Church, The Springs Community Church and Friendship Elementary School in a Gwinnett County district.

The district would be new and the seat would be filled in November's election. It is composed of a majority of Gwinnett County voting precincts.

The rest of South Hall's voters are included in districts drawn wholly in Hall.

Lane has proposed changing the North Hall district currently represented by Doug Collins, R-Gainesville, so that it would only include portions of Hall and White counties.

The map approved last summer included the northeastern portion of Forsyth County in that district.

If the map makes it out of committee, the district Collins represents would also take in portions of East Hall, including Gillsville and some voters from the Tadmore and Gainesville Masonic Lodge (Gainesville III) precincts. Collins is not seeking re-election to that seat and has launched a campaign for a new congressional seat in Georgia that is anchored in the county.

Lane said he thinks most of the representatives affected by the changes are OK with his proposal.

He said the map may garner some opposition from Habersham County delegates, however.

A direct effect of putting Hall back together was the division of Habersham County, Lane said.

Lane has proposed adding the southern portion of Habersham into a district with Banks and Stephens counties.

If Lane's proposal gets all the way to the governor's desk and garners a signature, it will face the scrutiny of the Justice Department, which has to approve any changes to voting in Georgia to ensure they do not negatively affect minority voting strength.

But Lane says he doesn't think that will be a problem.

"None of these districts have any impact on that in my humble opinion," Lane said.