The House Republican leadership DRAFT map for District 82, above. Good news: I live within the District boundaries and will be legally able to run for re-election in 2022. More good news: contiguous areas have been incorporated without pitting me against another incumbent Democrat representative. Unfortunately, some of you whom I have represented for many years would not be within the new district boundaries.
Many of you have invested time and energy to engage in the reapportionment and redistricting process. Those following or working with Fair Districts Georgia have been especially helpful in preparing everyone-- legislators and constituents--for the Special Session that began this week. I commend you all. And, because part of the process is building a record for potential litigation, it is not too late to submit comments to the Joint Committee.

We are three days in now at the Capitol, and I anticipate this Special Session running until perhaps November 19th. But we are only guessing at the schedule at this point. For those of you curious about the process, I want to give you some information about our district and the kinds of questions I'll be asking during the next few weeks. The process is unpredictable, and changes are made in maps and strategies with little to no warning, but I can offer some educated guessing about what happens next.

Every reapportionment and redistricting session has political and litigation strategies and is essentially a partisan fight for leadership and control of an agenda. The General Assembly Republican dominated Joint Committee on Reapportionment and Redistricting has released three maps proposing new congressional and state house and senate districts. What is their strategy to maintain control without violating constitutionally protected voting rights? This is the first such session to occur in Georgia after the U.S. Supreme Court ended the requirement of U.S. Department of Justice pre-clearance for maps to ensure alignment with the Voting Rights Act (Shelby v. Holder, 2013). The courts now will be asked to determine whether Section II of the Voting Rights Act has been violated based on racial discrimination.

How will the courts respond to constitutional challenges based on minority disenfranchisement? How do the Republicans hope to avoid successful litigation brought by minorities? Are the maps released so far vulnerable to charges of racial discrimination? (The U.S. Supreme Court precedent is not to intervene in cases of partisan gerrymandering; what would be a "bridge too far" even in that case?) All these and more questions are on my mind.

For a preview of potential disputes to come, see this article about the Georgia Senate discussion in U.S. News.
Draft Republican map for House districts in DeKalb, above, and Democrat alternative map for the same, below.
On the first day of our Special Session, House Reapportionment Chair Bonnie Rich (R, Suwanee) introduced the legislative framework for the new house district and congressional district maps as HB 1EX and HB 2 EX.

Draft Republican House District Maps were released the afternoon before.

We look at several things in evaluating the maps:

  • Are all parts of the district contiguous to each other?

  • Are the districts roughly equal in population?

  • Are they competitive relative to the partisan leaning of the state?

  • Are they compact--more like a circle or square than a snake?

  • Are majority-minority areas protected or divided?

  • Are county and city boundaries respected or split?

  • Are "communities of interest" -- such as university areas --split?

The thing that stands out most to me in the draft Republican House district map concerns competition.

We look at whether the districts are drawn so as to pit legislators from the same (or a different) party against each other--by drawing them into the same geographic area.

The current map includes a dozen such "pairings". Some appear to be problematic but are not, because one of the pair is leaving the House to run for another office or retire. Some are paired to try to force retirement. And some are paired for inscrutable reasons.

Here are examples of Democratic "pairings":

  • Rebecca Mitchell vs. Shelly Hutchinson (both Snellville) Two women with science related work histories and post college degrees, who flipped seats from Republican to Democrat.

  • Viola Davis vs. Billy Mitchell (Stone Mountain) A relative newcomer against a long time legislator who may have other aspirations.

  • Betsey Holland vs. Shea Roberts (Atlanta) Two women, both newcomers, both from the Buckhead area, and both also flipped seats.

  • David Dreyer (Atlanta) vs. William Boddie (East Point) Rep. Boddie is running for state Labor Commissioner.

  • Derek Mallow vs. Carl Wayne Gilliard (both Savannah).

  • Brian Prince vs. Mack Jackson (both Augusta).

Republicans are not exempt from this pairing effort, but their situations favor one incumbent:

  • Sharon Cooper (Marietta) vs. Matt Dollar (East Cobb), but Matt Dollar does not plan to run again.

  • Bonnie Rich (Suwanee) vs. David Clark (Buford), but Clark will not seek re-election.

There are at least a couple of pairings involving both parties:

  • Gregg Kennard (D, Lawrenceville) vs. Tim Barr (R, Lawrenceville)

  • Winfred Dukes (D, Albany) vs. Gerald Green (R, Cuthbert)

For a good summary and more map links, see Proposed Redistricting Maps by GPB's Stephen Fowler.

The Princeton Gerrymandering Project gave the House Republican Chair Draft House District Map (below left) a grade of F for competitiveness and gave the Draft Senate Republican Chair State Senate Map (below right) an overall grade of F and an F for competitiveness. The Senate Republican Chair Draft Congressional District Map received a grade of C for competitiveness, and a C overall (below center). By contrast, the Democrat proposed State Senate and House maps earned overall grades of A and B, though the Project took issue with competitiveness of the Democrat House map.
Thank you to Bert Reeves and Georgia Tech for managing our mandatory Covid-19 testing! The virus is still with us, and testing and masking protocols are in place in the House.
The Special Session is a busy time--committees are meeting now in preparation for the new Session, which begins in January.

Here are a few things I am working on:

  • The MARTOC Committee I chair will meet November 17.

  • Health and Human Services will meet November 15 to review legislation to create a Psychiatric Medical Directive Authorization, and I am a co-sponsor.
  • The House Study Committee on Annexation, Deannexation, and Cityhood will hold its final hearing and discuss final recommendations. (The Senate held a hearing yesterday with testimony from advocates and opponents of Buckhead City.)

  • There is ongoing work on the Budget and Recovery Act grants and awards.

  • The Behavioral Health Commission legislation continues to have input and activity.

  • I have been named an advisory member of the newly created Judicial Council Ad Hoc Committee on American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) Funding, chaired by Georgia Supreme Court Justice Michael Boggs.

More to come on all these and redistricting progress. Stay tuned!
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