Despite opposition, both chambers pass their proposed redistricting maps

Rep. Soo Hong. (Credit: Georgia House of Representatives)

It's crunch time for state lawmakers tasked with meeting a Dec. 8 deadline for creating new electoral maps for the Georgia General Assembly and U.S. Congress, also known as redistricting. 

Our senior investigative reporters, Tammy Joyner and Jill Jordan Sieder, were covering the special legislative session at the Capitol this week. Joyner is following the Senate proceedings, while Sieder is following the House proceedings. They will be your eyes and ears during the eight-day session, which means you will find a variety of stories and live updates on what's happening inside and even outside of the Capitol.  The special session will resume on Monday. And so will we.

We’d love to hear from you — our readers. If there’s something you would like us to report on during the special session or just have a question about what’s going on, shoot us an email at [email protected].

Here are some of the highlights of  Friday’s session.

In and about the Senate

Quote(s) of the day:

In the maps being drawn by the Republican majority, 80% of the Black voters on the map who are being redistricted come from outside these new growth areas where there are large and growing Black populations. And yet the court specifically identified disenfranchisement areas within the order. Eighty percent of Black voters are being shuffled around. This is like the Republicans’ mother scolded them and said, ‘Clean your room.’ And instead of doing that, they hung up a couple of shirts and left all of the dirty underwear all over the floor.”

— Sen. Elena Parent, D-Atlanta, said of the proposed map change 

“It hurts my feelings. I get defensive because I feel like I’m essentially being called a racist for supporting a map that is compliant with racial numbers the judge wants.”

— Sen. Bill Cowsert, R-Athens, who gave an eloquent history of redistricting in Georgia

Biggest thing that happened today: 

The Congressional map proposed by the state Senate for the U.S. House was quietly released Friday afternoon to little fanfare after both chambers’ sessions had adjourned. Next week’s session will clearly focus on that map.

Meanwhile, after more than four hours of debate, the Senate passed Senate Bill 1 EX by a vote of  32-23. The bill is the proposed revised district map, which drew lots of opposition from voting rights groups and Democrats who say the map still dilutes Black voting power and violates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act

Lots of partisan volleying back and forth. Democrats accused the Senate Committee on  Reapportionment and Redistricting of not allowing enough time for people to speak about the map. Republicans held firm that the map meets U.S. District Judge Steve Jones’ order. 

After the Senate map’s passage, the Senate Redistricting Committee met briefly to hear public comment on  House Bill 1 EX — the House’s proposed district map, which also passed the House on Friday. No action was taken.

Interesting observation inside the Capitol:

A group of children, babies in strollers and their parents with South Cobb Homeschool filed through the Capitol.

Happening while lawmakers are in session:

Group pushing for gun safety storage in the hallway at the Capitol. (Credit: Tammy Joyner)
Group pushing for gun safety storage in the hallway at the Capitol. (Credit: Tammy Joyner)

A group of health care professionals greeted lawmakers and visitors as they entered the Capitol with signs urging safe storage of firearms. They handed out information that noted  4.6 million children live in homes with at least one loaded, unlocked firearm. They mentioned HB 161, hoping that bill will see some movement when the Legislature reconvenes on Jan. 8.

What’s for lunch?

There was no official break for lunch. Some senators worked through lunch, grabbing snacks from the nearby mini cafe off the side of the chamber. 

— Tammy Joyner

[email protected]

In and about the House

Quote(s) of the day:

“This map is an undemocratic, un-American, blatant exercise of partisan gerrymandering that harms the freedom of Georgians to elect their candidates of choice … Unfortunately it seems that we are repeating the mistakes of our dark past under Republican control of the Georgia Legislature.”

 — Minority Whip Sam Park, D-Lawrenceville, on the proposed state House map

"I had to take a test to vote … I understand why voting matters … and as an attorney, I understand that when a judge tells you to do something in an order, you comply. He said to create five majority-Black districts — not opportunity districts or coalition districts or crossover districts. Chairman [Rob] Leverett’s map complies with everything the judge required.”

Rep. Soo Hong, R-Lawrenceville, Gov. Kemp’s floor leader

Biggest thing that happened today:

The state House voted 101 to 78 along party lines to pass the proposed House electoral map crafted by Republican leadership, over the intense objections of Democrats, who said the map violates the Voting Rights Act by breaking up two minority opportunity districts and unnecessarily eliminating or vastly changing Democratic districts.

Minority Leader James Beverly, D-Macon, said the GOP maps “failed to remedy the wrong directed toward our African-American electorate that was disenfranchised” by the maps enacted by the Republican-controlled Legislature in 2021. He was also frustrated by the earlier decision of House redistricting committee chair Rob Leverett, R-Elberton, to bar a Democratic amendment that would have presented an alternate map for the committee to consider. The amended plan would have decoupled six incumbent Democrats and two incumbent Republicans who were paired in the same districts in the GOP plan.

Minority Leader James Beverly, D-Macon, discusses a Democratic amendment to the proposed House electoral map with House Reapportionment and Redistricting Committee Chair Rob Leverett, R-Elberton. (Credit: Jill Jordan Sieder)

Leverett said he could not find a way to comply with the court order to create five majority-Black districts without creating some incumbent pairings, noting, “we did not inflict political casualty solely on the opposing party — we took some damage ourselves.”

Interesting observation inside the Capitol:

Facility staff put the finishing touches on holiday decorations inside the Capitol, including putting the star on the giant Christmas tree in the rotunda, which will be decorated with much fanfare on Monday.

Happening while lawmakers are in session:

The Christmas decorating wasn’t limited to inside the corridors of the Statehouse. Facility staff were also sprucing up the outside with Christmas cheer, too.

What's for lunch?

Some House members enjoyed pizza, and this intrepid reporter had what is certain to be her first — and last — Hot Pocket.

                                                — Jill Jordan Sieder

[email protected]

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We’d love to hear from you. If there’s something you would like us to report on during the special session or just have a question about what’s going on, shoot us an email at [email protected].