|Congressional Boundaries||Drawn by legislature|
|State Boundaries||Drawn by legislature|
Georgia's state legislative and congressional districts are drawn by the Legislature by ordinary statute. In the state House, the task is carried out by the Legislative and Congressional Reapportionment Committee. In the state Senate, it falls to the Reapportionment and Redistricting Committee. Plans are subject to the Governor's veto; the Legislature can override vetoes with a two-thirds vote in each chamber.
In addition to the federal requirements of one person, one vote and the Voting Rights Act, Georgia’s state constitution (Art. III § 2, ¶II) requires that state legislative districts be contiguous. The legislative guidelines for the 2011-12 redistricting House and Senate committees required that the maps avoid the "unnecessary pairing of incumbents" and consider compactness, political subdivisions, and communities of interest. However, these guidelines specify that they were not meant to limit the committees' consideration of other factors.
While Georgia law does not require public hearings, the Legislature held twelve hearings between May 16 and June 30 in the 2011 cycle. It is plausible that similar meetings will be held in 2021.
In the 2011 redistricting cycle, Georgia faced several legal challenges:
- In Thompson v. Kemp, plaintiffs challenged the General Assembly’s redrawing of districts in 2015, alleging that two of the House districts constituted unconstitutional racial gerrymanders. The 2015 plan at issue was the first drawn after the Shelby County decision, and thus was not precleared. The parties ultimately filed for dismissal.
- In Dwight v. Raffensperger, plaintiffs brought a Voting Rights Act Section 2 case, challenging Georgia's 12th congressional district as allegedly diluting the votes of Black voters in southeastern Georgia by cracking the population. The parties ultimately filed for dismissal.
Both chambers of the Legislature and the Governorship are controlled by Republicans, and there is no initiative process. This means that any redistricting reform will have to pass through the General Assembly. With single-party control, there is an increased risk of partisan and racial gerrymandering.
Additionally, this will be Georgia’s first cycle without the protections of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which was struck down in the 2013 Supreme Court case Shelby County v. Holder. In the absence of preclearance requirements for communities of color, and given the recent history of gerrymandering in Georgia, observers should closely monitor every step of the redistricting process to ensure fair treatment for all.
- State legislative redistricting plan deadline: no statutory deadline
- Congressional redistricting plan deadline: no statutory deadline
The Census Bureau may delay sending population data to states until as late as July 31, 2021. As Georgia has no statutory deadline tied to census data, no formal adjustments are necessary. However, to maintain the current primary schedule, the Legislature will need to hold a special session in fall 2021 or early 2021 to complete redistricting.
- Senate Resolution 969 proposed an amendment to Georgia’s state constitution to create an independent commission for redistricting. SR969 was left in the Senate Reapportionment and Redistricting Committee when the Legislature adjourned on June 26, 2020.
- Senate Bill 491 would have required state lawmakers to hold a minimum of two public hearings to present and explain proposed redistricting plans. SB491 was left in the Senate Reapportionment and Redistricting Committee when the Legislature adjourned on June 26, 2020.
Although Georgia poses a challenge for advocates of fair districting because of its single-party control and history of gerrymandering, there are actions you can take:
- Take the End Gerrymandering Georgia Pledge.
- Read the Common Cause Activist Handbook on Redistricting Reform to learn about what reforms have been successful in the past, and what steps to take to enact reform in the future.
In 2021, participate in the Legislature’s public input process.
- Obtain Georgia redistricting data from OpenPrecincts.
- Start to plan out what defines your community – whether it’s a shared economic interest, school districts, or other social or other cultural, historical, or economic interests – and how that can be represented on a map. This will come in handy once the Legislature starts collecting feedback.
- Use software tools such as Dave's Redistricting App and Districtr to draw district maps showing either (a) what a fair map would look like, or (b) where the community you believe should be better represented is located.