Gwinnett, Cobb redistricting fights take over state Capitol

The Georgia House of Representatives approved a bill Thursday that redivides Gwinnett County's commission districts, despite the objections of Democrats. 

Every 10 years, lawmakers must approve new district maps based on U.S. Census data.

Working with the Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners, the Gwinnett delegation, which is majority Democrat, proposed a map that closely mirrored the current districts. County leaders held a series of public hearings to get feedback from the community before finalizing the map. 

Earlier this week though, Republicans filed their own map that makes significant changes, including creating a new northern district, which leans more conservative. 

"I do believe that all of the communities in our county matter and that is why I drew lines that represent those distinct communities. We have urban-suburban communities, we have more urban communities, and they have different interests and different needs," said state Rep. Bonnie Rich, R-Suwanee, who drafted the Republican proposal. 

Normally these types of redistricting bills go through the local delegation and do not move to the House floor without their approval, but Democrats said Republicans circumvented those procedures. 

"The Republicans stated that they had no involvement in the process when they were involved in every point in the process," said state Rep. Dr. Jasmine Clark, D-Lilburn.

The House approved the Republicans' map along party lines.

"The Republicans are retaliating against the voters in metro Atlanta, Georgia for exercising their power and voice at the ballot box," said Rep. Clark. 

Meanwhile, a similar fight is brewing over Cobb's proposed redistricting maps. This week, Republicans filed two bills that redraw districts for the Cobb County Board of Education and the Cobb County Board of Commissioners.

"Republicans are seeking to seize power and overrule the voters," said state Rep. Erick Allen, D-Smyrna, who serves as Cobb delegation chairman. "It's shameful that we are in this place." 

Currently, the Cobb County Board of Commissioners is made up of three Democrats and two Republicans.

"Members really I think put time into doing a good job at representing the communities," said state Rep. Ed Setzler, R-Acworth. "The reapportionment maps that have been drawn in Cobb County I think have been part of a thoughtful process."