June 27-- Senator Jack Hill of Reidsville provides perspective on the impact reapportionment could have on rural Georgia in general and his 4th Senatorial District specifically in his weekly "Notes from the Senate" report.
REAPPORTIONMENT AND WHAT IT MEANS TO THE FOURTH DISTRICT
The U.S. Census every ten years results in the reapportionment of the U.S. House of Representatives and state legislatures to comply with the one-person, one-vote mandate. Actually the U.S. Senate does not reflect equality but is based on each state being of equal representation. Assuming the governor follows his announced plans, he will call a reapportionment session beginning on August 15. During that special session, the State Senate will draft a new Senate plan and the House a new House plan as well. Normally each body routinely passes the other body's plan without change.
REAPPORTIONING CONGRESSIONAL SEATS
Congressional reapportionment is different. To begin with, because of Georgia 's explosive growth over the last ten years, the state will pick up an additional congressional seat giving Georgia 14 seats. Fast growing "sunshine belt" states have been adding seats over the last 3 reapportionments while "rustbelt" states whose population has been stable or in decline have lost seats in Congress.
Congressional reapportionment is handled in the legislature similarly to any other legislation. Each body will pass a plan and ultimately a conference committee will be formed to hammer out the differences and produce one plan. Of course, there are 13 sitting congressmen who have opinions about congressional districts. And there are numerous individuals, many in the legislature who looked in the mirror one morning and saw a potential U.S. congressman. Also, communities around the state have opinions about which district they want to belong to and which congressman they want to represent them.
So the development of this plan is the one filled with the most intrigue and likely, if the past is any predictor, to wind up in federal court. Additionally, because Georgia is one of the states under the federal Voting Rights Act, all plans passed by the legislature are subject to review by the U.S. Justice Department. And when you consider all of the states are going through the same process and many will wind up in court as well, it is easy to understand why the reapportionment process can actually drag on for years. One factor to remember is that, unlike state legislators, U.S. Congressmen do not have to live in the district they run for or represent. There is some history in Georgia of the legislature trying to reapportion congressmen out of their seats, but that has rarely, if ever worked.
THE SENATE AND THE FOURTH DISTRICT REAPPORTIONMENT
There are 56 senate seats set by the state constitution. Georgia 's now official 2010 population is 9,687,653 and divided by the 56 seats makes each district 172,994 people, an increase of 26,807. So every district that did not grow 26,807, or the 18.3% the state grew, is short population. Conversely, those districts that grew more than the state average and have more than 172,994 must lose population. It looks like rural Georgia will lose at least one Senate seat in reapportionment. The Fourth District is actually over in population by 9803 people and must lose that population to another district. Most districts around the fourth are short of the target. Here is a breakdown of the counties in the Fourth District:
County Population Percent of Growth
Bulloch 70,217 25.4%
Candler 10,998 14.8%
Effingham 52,250 39.2%
Emanuel (pt. 79.2%) 17,856 3.7%
Evans 11,000 4.8%
Tattnall (pt. 53.2%) 13,951 41.4%
Treutlen 6,885 0.5%
Total Population 2010 Census 182,797
2011 District Target 172,994
Over population 9,803
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
The House has 180 members and the new districts will consist of 53,820 people. There are six House districts that touch or lie within the Fourth District. By number, here are the populations for those districts:
District Number 2010 Population Number over or under New Target
155 47,362 -6,458
156 51,000 -2,820
157 49,943 -3,877
158 57,393 +3,573
159 88,115 +34,295
166 46,202 -7,618
As in the Senate, Rural Georgia is expected to lose some seats in the House reapportionment as well. Reapportionment can be a very tough process and where seats are being eliminated, it can pit member against member. It is a very personal process because members and the public become attached and understandably, no one likes change.
Reapportionment plans even after voted on and passed by the Legislature, face review by the U.S. Justice Dept. At some point, opposing parties to whoever drew the plans will most likely file suit in federal court if the past is any guide to the future. The courts have shifted through the years as to reapportionment policy and what is legal and allowed and what is not. It seems new ground is ploughed each reapportionment period.
If you would like additional information, you might find these websites useful: www.georgiareapportionment.uga.edu and www.census.gov.