Republican majority

2011 redistricting led to latest battle for Fulton County

Name of Publication: 
Atlanta Journal Constitution
Excerpt of Article: 

Posted: 12:30 p.m. Monday, March 18, 2013

By Johnny Edwards and David Wickert

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

It’s a 20-mile drive from state Sen. Mike Crane’s home in Newnan to the farthest southern reaches of Fulton County.

But Crane and other non-Fulton Republicans are playing a big role in a debate over the county’s future. An Atlanta Journal-Constitution review found more than a third of the people representing Fulton in the General Assembly live outside the county. That’s far more than the proportion of out-of-county lawmakers representing Cobb, DeKalb and Gwinnett.

And it’s no accident. In 2011 Republicans redrew legislative boundaries to gain control of Fulton’s delegation. Now Georgia’s largest county, where most residents are minorities and where Democratic President Barack Obama won 64 percent of the vote in November, has a white Republican majority in the General Assembly.

That majority plans to make big changes to a county government that has endured botched elections, jail overcrowding and complaints about dubious tax liens. Republicans say the county also spends too much money and is unresponsive to their constituents.

Among other things, Republicans have introduced bills to cut deeply into the county’s property tax revenue, to make it easier to fire employees and to redraw County Commission districts in a way that gives Republicans a chance at winning a majority. ...

None of it would have been possible without the redistricting that allowed Republicans to gain control of Fulton’s legislative delegation.

Though state law leaves much of the governance of the county to the locally elected Board of Commissioners, Fulton’s legislative delegation can dictate some of the details and limit the commission’s power through bills called “local legislation.”

Until this year, Democrats held a 14-8 majority of Fulton County’s seats in the House and a 4-3 majority in the Senate. But in 2011 the Republican-controlled Legislature redrew House and Senate districts across the state based on 2010 census data.

Now Republicans enjoy a 13-12 edge in Fulton County House seats and a 7-4 majority in the Senate. To accomplish that, they extended districts into Fulton that previously had not included the county.

As a result, 13 of 36 state legislators whose districts now include a piece of Fulton live elsewhere. Four live in Cobb County. Two each live in DeKalb, Gwinnett and Fayette counties. Others live in Cherokee, Coweta and Forsyth. Eleven of the 13 lawmakers who live outside Fulton are Republicans.

“It just seemed like it was a goal to have a (Republican) majority there, and they’re obviously making use of that majority now,” said Kennesaw State University political scientist Kerwin Swint, a redistricting expert.

 

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