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Redistricting and impact on the 51st District

POSTED: August 24, 2011 4:00 a.m.

Special Session

The General Assembly was called in special session last week to undergo the arduous task of reapportionment. This is a process done every 10 years to redistrict the state to ensure equal representation based on current population.

Based on the recent census count, our state's population is more than 9.6 million, a growth from 8.1 million in 2000.

This increase in population will gain Georgia a new Congressional District and a need to reapportion state districts to comply with the one-vote, one-person mandate. This mandate is a legal precedent that requires the General Assembly to map new state districts, which will balance the increase and decline of population throughout Georgia.

Data collected from the 2010 Census requires new Senate districts to have a population of 172,994, which is an average growth of 18.3 percent from the 2000 numbers.

Redistricting impacts to the 51st District

Currently, the 51st District includes the entire counties of Dawson, Gilmer, Fannin, Pickens, Lumpkin, Union and portions of Forsyth and White counties. If the proposed map is approved, the new 51st District will include the whole counties of Dawson, Gilmer, Fannin, Lumpkin, Union, White and portions of Pickens and Forsyth counties. A 31.1 percent total growth of the District since 2000 necessitates decreasing the population of the District from 190,842 in order to meet legal requirements.

New maps are formed with as little deviation as possible from the mandated population number of 172,994.

The new 51st District will have 173,593 people, or only a .35 percent deviation. Included below is a table of population breakdown by counties within the 51st District, comparing the previous redistricting session to this year's numbers.

Reapportioning Congressional seats

On the federal level, Georgia's explosive growth over the last 10 years has earned our state an additional congressional seat, raising our total to 14 seats. Georgia is considered a fast-growing "sunshine belt" state because of our growth in population causing us to gain additional seats. At the same time, "rustbelt" states are considered stable or in decline and have lost seats in Congress.

Congressional redistricting is handled in the Georgia Legislature similar to any other legislation. Each body will pass a plan and ultimately the differences will be hammered out. This is a contentious subject with all sides weighing in from the 13 current U.S. congressmen to their constituents and other legislators who might be vying for the new seat.

Georgia is one of the states under Section 5 of the federal Voting Rights Act, wherein all plans passed by the General Assembly must receive approval from the federal government.

The special session will also look at a couple more issues based on Gov. Deal's agenda. Legislators will also consider changing the date of regional transportation referendums from next year's primary election in July to the general election in November. It would add a 1-cent sales tax to pay for transportation projects in the Atlanta area. In addition, Gov. Deal has also requested lawmakers to ratify his decision back in the summer to roll back the sales tax increase on gasoline.

I will continue to work hard on your behalf and will send you Capitol updates throughout the special session.

Sen. Steve Gooch represents the 51st Senate District, which includes Dawson, Fannin, Gilmer, Lumpkin, Pickens and Union counties and portions of Forsyth and White counties. He can be reached at (404) 656-9221 or via e-mail at steve.gooch@senate.ga.gov.

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