Feb 4, 2022 - News

Proposed map puts Cobb commissioners into same district

Proposed Cobb BOC district maps

State Rep. John Carson's proposed Cobb County Commission map, left, draws commissioners Jerica Richardson and JoAnn Birrell into the same post. State Rep. Erick Allen's map, right, keeps commissioners in their existing posts. Images: Courtesy of Legislative and Congressional Reapportionment Office and Erick Allen

Battle lines are drawn between Republicans and Democrats in the effort to redistrict Cobb County commission and board of education district maps.

Why it matters: Every 10 years, redistricting redraws boundaries for school boards and county commissions following the U.S. Census count. It follows redistricting for Congressional and General Assembly seats, which took place last fall.

  • Local governments usually draft and approve district lines with their local lawmakers. Those maps are normally treated as local legislation and expedited through the Capitol.

Driving the news: Competing proposals to redraw maps in Cobb are under consideration, the latest of which is House Bill 1154 introduced Tuesday by state Rep. John Carson.

The bill has been criticized because it draws incumbent Commissioner JoAnn Birrell, who is up for reelection in November, into the same district as Jerica Richardson, who took office in 2021.

  • A newly created Post 2, which straddles Interstate 75 through most of the county, would be an open seat for the primary and general elections.
  • This means Richardson, a Democrat, would have to challenge her Republican colleague or move into the new post.

What they're saying: Birrell, who is in her third term, tells Axios in a statement that she doesn't endorse any proposal that draws commissioners out of their districts.

  • “The General Assembly has authority over all maps, so they draw our district lines,” she says. “It is their job – not ours – even though it ultimately affects us here at the local level.”

Richardson tells Axios that Carson has taken a "rogue" approach in county commission redistricting.

  • "What is most perplexing is how someone who doesn’t live in the district believes they know what’s best for our constituents, who voted us in to represent them," she says, adding neither she nor her colleagues were given an opportunity to provide feedback about the map.
  • The bill has been assigned to the House Governmental Affairs Committee, which traditionally does not handle redistricting legislation.

Context: Controversy is brewing over a similar bill targeting the Cobb County Board of Education. House Bill 1028, introduced by state Rep. Ginny Ehrhart, draws Democratic members Jaha Howard and Charisse Davis into the same district and leaves another vacant.

  • Both seats are up for reelection. Howard is running for state schools superintendent and Davis has not said whether she will seek a second term.

State Rep. Erick Allen, Cobb's delegation chair, tells Axios that Republicans bypassing the local legislation process is an attempt to “exert a power grab.”

  • Allen says he began soliciting feedback from county commission and school board members in December and held a virtual town hall last month to get public input on his proposal maps.
  • Republicans, he said, did not participate in that process and are ignoring the will of the voters who elected Cobb legislators to tackle local redistricting.
  • “Local control is only relevant when they feel like they need to control the locals,” Allen tells Axios.

What we're watching: Allen says he will introduce his proposed maps for the county commission and school board today.

Of note: The Republican-backed version of Gwinnett's county commission map, which we reported on earlier this week, passed the state House Thursday over the objections of Democrats.

Go deeper: Read Axios' coverage exploring partisan redistricting battles in Cobb and Gwinnett counties.

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