Governor Brian Kemp announcing the Special Session. Photo Credit: Hyosub Shin /
Governor Kemp has called for a Special Session of the General Assembly to convene on Wednesday November 3, the day after the municipal elections, to draw district lines for Georgia’s 14 Congressional districts and all Georgia House and Senate districts. Note that Governor Kemp also calls for us to take up other issues relating to coordination of federal and state tax laws, a routine annual task, and the motor fuel tax. The Proclamation does not include crime as some expected, but others claim that Buckhead City issues might be addressed, perhaps in hearings. 
In the past week, the first redistricting map was released by state Senate leaders Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan and Sen. John D. Kennedy, and the real mathematical and political work now begins with the 202o Census data being entered into computer databases using sophisticated algorithms to plot potential districts.

Drilling into the 2020 Census data is the hard work of reapportionment and redistricting, and both the House and Senate Democratic Caucuses have hired voting rights litigation specialists with extensive experience in redistricting litigation as well as additional computer technicians who will use computer programs such as Maptitude to draw district lines by computer. I am reviewing the data for HD 82 and learning how the district has changed in 10 years. Here is a snapshot: 

  • Georgia's population grew by 10.6% since 2010 while the U.S. population increased 7.4%. Georgia's population is now 10,711,908.
  • DeKalb County's population is now 764,382, an increase of 11% since 2010.

  • The total census population of HD 82 is 60,104, also around a 10% increase since 2010.
  • Of HD 82’s census population, 49,242 are adults 18 and over.
  • All of DeKalb County’s growth is relatively consistent across our 16 state House districts compared to other parts of the state where growth is very uneven. For example, Forsyth County (Cumming) grew by over 43.2% while Dooly County (Unadilla) has lost almost 25% of its population. 

Looking at the data for HD 82, the Census categorizes the population as AP (“Any Part”) Asian, AP Black, AP Hispanic, and White/Non-Hispanic. For HD-82, the categories of adults 18 and over break down like this:

AP Asian      10.68%
AP Black      21.67%
AP Hispanic   18.27%
White/Non-Hisp. 48.57%

As you can see, these percentages relate to categories and growth of total population and not those of registered voters. My next task will be to obtain the breakdown of HD 82’s growth by registered voters. 

While the numbers represent total population rather than percentages of registered voters, they reflect the changing demographics of DeKalb County. The combined non-white population of HD 82 is slightly larger than the white population.

Some of the legal issues of redistricting in 2020 will be new and unique. Very good lawyers are anticipating new legal theories and maps that intentionally (or unintentionally) will generate new case law around the rights of all minorities to participate equally in elections. This data on the growing mix of Georgia’s population will be at the center of our efforts to create fair districts under the Voting Rights Act. 

There are those who argue that the Act has been eroded by court decisions related to racial and partisan gerrymandering, the latter of which is considered political and beyond the purview of the courts. Thus, partisan gerrymandering continues to be legal and problematic, relying on techniques like “packing” (districts drawn to create majority-minority populations) and “cracking” (districts drawn to split up minority populations, diluting the influence of those populations). These techniques deprive voters of power and drain legislative contests of competition.

As we know, this is the first reapportionment session in which the pre-clearance provisions of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 will not be operative. After the 2013 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Shelby v. Holder, states are no longer required to submit proposed changes to voting laws to the U.S. Department of Justice for review and “preclearance.” The provisions of Section 2, which prohibit racially discriminatory practices in redistricting (among other voting related matters) still apply. 
Fair Districts Georgia, in partnership with the Princeton Gerrymandering Project, has prepared over a million maps suggesting multiple ways Georgia’s districts should be drawn. The data suggest a much narrower partisan margin between the number of Democrat and Republican districts, making Georgia look more like a swing state. AJC 

"[T] here’s a lot of opportunity to draw districts to mix the population either between minorities and non-minorities or between Democrats and Republicans,” said Ken Lawler, chair of Fair Districts GA. Valdosta Daily Times

We got a preview of what might happen with redistricting when the Republican majority in the Georgia Senate released the first new district map on September 27. Of particular interest is the manner in which the 6th Congressional District held by Democrat Lucy McBath was drawn for a Republican victory by bringing into the district Republican-leaning areas of Forsyth County and shrinking the Democrat-leaning areas of DeKalb. Also of interest is that so far Congressional District 7, where Democrat Carolyn Bourdeaux serves, remains drawn more toward Democrats with additions from Gwinnett. This is an example of what may be a Republican strategy to maintain a more solidly Republican leaning district in the 6th. Of course, Republicans are not sharing their strategies with me, and every day will reveal other maps and speculation on strategies. AJC ; 11 Alive (with map)

The release of this first map is but one example of the way maps will be distributed for public review ahead of a final vote. All newly drawn districts will be included in a bill and, as all bills are, read on the House and Senate floors and assigned to committees in each chamber. The same process will be followed for U.S. congressional districts and for state legislative districts. There will be committee hearings and opportunities for public comment. Because both houses have to agree on the final map, there will be a conference committee before a final vote.  

You can watch most of this process on the General Assembly website, including many of the committee hearings. While we don’t yet know Covid protocols, whatever they are, the Capitol will be open, and you may visit and contact legislators there. You may also submit comments on the website. Georgia General Assembly

Read More:

Here is a 2 minute video that explains the basics of gerrymandering: 

City of Atlanta map depicting the Emory annexation area.
This is a Municipal and a Special Election.

As you know, HD 82 is entirely in DeKalb County. The district also includes parts of the cities of Atlanta, Brookhaven, Chamblee, and Decatur. The November 2 election is for two things: municipal races in those cities and a special 1% sales and use tax benefitting DeKalb County Schools. So if you live in unincorporated DeKalb, there is still reason to vote.

Most voters in HD 82 will be familiar with the process and their polling places (although see below regarding possible changes to those). But voters residing within the Emory area annexed into the City of Atlanta, effective January 1, 2018, will vote for the first time in City of Atlanta elections on November 2. 

Uncertain whether you live in the City of Atlanta?

Go to My Voter Page and enter your information. You will be able to view a sample ballot and then know if you are voting in the city elections. You also will see your polling place listed. 
DeKalb County also has polling place information on an interactive map where you can enter your address and find your polling location.

More Important Information on Voting

Register or check your registration:

Deadline to register: Monday, October 4. Register at My Voter Page

Check your registration there, even if you believe you are registered. The Secretary of State recently sent 187,000 notices to voters considered inactive, requiring reply within 30 days before that voter was purged from the list of voters.

Request an Absentee Ballot:
Deadline: October 22. No requests after that date will be processed, and you will have to vote in person. 

You must have a Drivers’ License Number, State ID number, or other acceptable form of ID to complete the absentee ballot request. If you need a State ID, go to the DeKalb Voter Registration and Elections Office to get one for free. Other acceptable forms of ID are listed on the request form.

Sample Absentee Ballot Request Form [for illustration only]

Return your absentee ballot request
Deadline: October 22.

• mail or in person
DeKalb Voter Registration and Elections Office
4380 Memorial Drive, Suite 300, Decatur, GA 30032

• email (as an attachment) to   

• fax (404) 298-4038

Early in-person voting:
October 12 - 29 (including Saturdays October 16 and 23) , 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. at any of the following locations, regardless of your usual precinct:

  • Bessie Branham Recreation Center (2051 Delano Drive NE, Atlanta, GA 30317)
  • Lynwood Recreation Center (3360 Osborne Road NE, Brookhaven, GA 30319)
  • Berean Christian Church – Family Life Center (2197 Young Road, Stone Mountain, GA 30088)
  • DeKalb Voter Registration & Elections Office (4380 Memorial Drive, Suite 300, Decatur, GA 30032)
  • Tucker-Reid H. Cofer Library (5234 LaVista Road, Tucker, GA 30084)
  • Stonecrest Library (3123 Klondike Road, Stonecrest, GA 30038)
  • County Line-Ellenwood Library (4331 River Road, Ellenwood, GA 30294)
  • Dunwoody Library (5339 Chamblee Dunwoody Road., Dunwoody, GA 30338)

DeKalb County has not yet posted which of these locations will have drop boxes for absentee ballots. Advance voting facilities will be the ONLY locations of drop boxes. 

What to bring with you for in-person voting:

  • A valid ID, such as a driver’s license, passport, or voter identification card
  • A mask to help ensure your safety and the safety of the poll workers and voters around you.
  • Chair, water, and snacks if the location has a long wait line. If you have a physical disability or are 75+ years old, you do not have to wait in line.
  • Your absentee ballot, if you want to vote in-person instead. If you do not have your absentee ballot, you will need to sign an affidavit stating that you are instead casting your ballot in-person.

Polling Place Changes
Keep an eye on your polling place. DeKalb has issued notice that some polling places will be different on November 2. Here is the latest posted by the DeKalb Board of Elections: Notice of Polling Place Changes
Quick Links for You

You can search for and track bills, watch the House (or Senate) in Session, watch committee hearings, monitor legislation by committee, and find contact information —- all on the revamped General Assembly website. Here are quick links:

Make your views known. Write to the leaders:

As always, I am here to serve you and want to hear from you. Contact me or my staff with any questions or concerns.

Coverdell Legislative Office Building
18 Capitol Square, Suite 604
Atlanta, GA  30334