House Bill Seeks to Draw New District Lines in Violation of Constitution

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.

HD 111 Race

HD 40 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.


17 thoughts on “House Bill Seeks to Draw New District Lines in Violation of Constitution”

  1. Also can I just say it’s the definition of hubris to just assume you can build a house in a different district and just fix it for yourself. Too bad none of these people have a kid that needs Medicaid expansion. Bet that would get done pretty quick.

      1. I agree with this to a point. The algorithm, though, impersonal, could be written to create, say packed R districts, which would again produce a result that isn’t reflective of the people.

        But in the main, I agree.

  2. 😎 depends on us agreeing on what impersonal means. My previous opines involved neighborhoods, school districts, zip codes, towns, cities, counties, states, geographic areas, trade areas and such.

    1. I like taking into account the things that you mention, except I don’t place any stock in the delivery of mail as a determinant of districts. I’d add split precincts should be avoided—in some cases precincts themselves should be adjusted.

  3. I was very critical of 2012 redistricting, particularly as it relates to DeKalb. Georgia Pol contributor Ed Lindsey was involved in that effort and statewide redistricting in general. Perhaps he’ll share his thoughts on this legislation.

  4. The constant line tweaking say a lot about how scared Republicans are of losing their power. They apparently don’t believe the voters will support them based on the legislation they support. It says a lot about how they don’t care about the majority of Georgians. The question is will the voters revolt and throw them out? If not, it encourages the behavior as we are seeing.

    1. Calm down. It’s 2 districts. They’re not gerrymandering the entire state like the D’s did for the 2002 elections. Take a look at that map if you want to see some ridiculously shaped districts. In the end it didn’t work.

      Smyrna is changing rapidly and resembling a ghetto. Blacks can’t find any affordable housing in town so they’re moving into Smyrna. Smyrna is now more diverse then the ITP. Crime is up; property values are dropping. Sad.

      1. Smyrna home values are up more than 50% in the last five years, and up 11.5% in the past year alone.

        I’m a middle-aged, married, white guy with a six-figure career at a major commercial bank. I’m generally supportive of pro-business, fiscally conservative Republicans such as Rich Golick. But good government, transparency and basic fairness are table stakes for me. I’ll be voting and campaigning against him in 2018. Sad!

          1. I understood his implication, but I chose to focus on that part of his ignorance that is quantifiable. I suppose I should also have pointed out that the crime rate has been going down, not up.

      2. The Republicans already severely gerrymandered the entire state in 2012. So there’s that. And yes, Roy Barnes did it 10 years earlier, and it was just as reprehensible and ugly. But even though it’s “only 2 districts” it’s very real to the people in those 2 districts as well as the adjoining districts that swap voters. Voters should pick their representatives. When representatives pick their voters, we’re doing something contrary to our American ideals and principles.

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