Most people know that redistricting is a required process in the Georgia Legislature, generally undertaken every 10 years following the release of the U.S. Census. But what many do not know, is that sometimes the members of the legislature start trading homes and voters with each other in the middle of the decade.
This year though, they’ve brought a bill (HB515) that isn’t mere neighborhood realignment, it is a naked attempt to prevent voters from ousting their representatives. Rich Golick represents a district where the voters have increasingly been moving into the Democratic column. So does Brian Strickland. As a politician, you have at least two options: 1) you could change the way you represent the district, or 2) you could change the district you represent.
The second one only works if you can be pretty sure you are pulling your opponents out of the district and getting supporters in. If you don’t have sub-precinct data, you either have to take out entire precincts or divide them by the only metric you can be sure of: race.
But that leads to another problem. Shaw v. Reno and its progeny make it very clear, as they did in Miller v. Johnson that you can’t use race as the predominant factor. Here’s the court in Miller talking about Georgia’s attempts to create a majority-minority district:
“As race was the predominating factor motivating the Georgia General Assembly’s assignment of black voters to the Eleventh District, an equal protection claim was stated. Furthermore, as this racial classification could not withstand strict scrutiny analysis, it is a violation of the Equal Protection Clause.”
Strict scrutiny, you say?
Not sure what the communities of interest argument could be here, but I am sure one will be made. But the real problem is this idea that legislators should be shuttling around voters and creating octopus shaped districts just to try to keep their jobs. That the method for so doing is apparently race-based just taints the process more.
This bill is slated for the House Supplemental Rules calendar this afternoon and for the House floor this evening. This entire maneuver, by the way, was created this week. Dropped on Tuesday night as a placeholder, then found this form on Wednesday afternoon after the committee met and immediately passed it out, over the objections of the only House member who testified.