(The Center Square) – The Georgia Senate approved a new House legislative district map Friday, with Democrats and a lone Republican voting against it.
Lawmakers must redraw legislative maps every 10 years to correspond with updated U.S. Census Bureau data. Last year's census showed Georgia's population grew by 1 million people from 2010 to 2020. It showed population growth in urban areas and population loss in rural areas. The data was delayed by five months because of the COVID-19 pandemic and natural disasters.
The House map has been criticized by Democrats along each step of the way, and Friday's Senate debate was no different.
"Georgians have demanded fair maps and Georgians deserve fair maps," Sen. Donzella James, D-Atlanta, said. "The data and statistics show us that there is more work to be done on the proposed map before us."
During Thursday's Senate Redistricting and Reapportionment Committee meeting, Sen. Gloria Butler, D-Stone Mountain, said the House map does not account for the state's change in racial demographics over the decade. Most of the growth, Butler said, was among minority communities. She accused Republicans of trying to maintain partisan control of the Legislature and continued her criticism Friday.
"Public comment on this map, including from Republicans, was overwhelmingly negative, and it was promptly ignored," Butler said. "Republicans voted the map out of committee on partisan lines without making a single change to the map after hearing from the people."
House Legislative and Congressional Reapportionment Committee Chair Rep. Bonnie Rich, R-Suwanee, has defended the House map, saying it has received more public input than any other map in the history of redistricting. She also said lawmakers considered the majority-minority districts as required by law, and the map includes 76 majority nonwhite districts.
Sen. John Kennedy, R-Macon, who presented the bill in the Senate on Friday, said it is customary for each chamber to pass the other chamber's approved map without changes.
"We do have our own independent obligations, and I think those are to make sure what they have sent us in this bill is constitutional, that it's legal and that it's been and involved a fair process," Kennedy said. "I will tell you that all three of those points are absolutely 'yes.'"
Sen. Matt Brass, R-Newnan, was the only Republican to vote against the map because of how it divides his constituents.
"These weren't easy decisions," Brass said of drawing new legislative boundaries. "I understand that. Nobody got everything they wanted. A lot of people didn't get anything they wanted, but, again, sometimes you have to lose it all to gain something worth having."
• The Center Square reporter Nyamekye Daniel contributed to this report.