Sep 20, 2022 - News

Cobb could replace maps approved by state lawmakers

maps
Cobb County commissioners are considering replacing the legislature-approved district map (left) with one it endorsed in January. Credit: Courtesy of the Legislative and Congressional Reapportionment Office

Cobb County could wade into unprecedented territory and replace a controversial district map approved by the Georgia General Assembly.

Driving the news: County commissioners are considering a proposal to invoke Georgia's Home Rule statute, which allows local entities to make laws pertaining to their own governance, in order to override the General Assembly-drawn map.

  • The original map moved Democrat Jerica Richardson out of her existing District 2 and placed her in District 3 with fellow incumbent Republican JoAnn Birrell. It also created a new District 2 that straddles I-75.
  • The proposal would change the commission's district boundaries to reflect the map it approved and incorporated into H.B. 1256, Democratic-backed legislation that was not voted on by the legislature.

Why it matters: Local governments usually draft and approve district lines with their local lawmakers before being expedited through the Capitol.

  • This year, that did not happen; Republican state legislators representing Cobb introduced a new map that put two incumbents in one district.
  • The proposed changes, first reported by the Marietta Daily Journal, would not affect the Nov. 8 general election and would go into effect Jan. 1, 2023 if approved, the county says.

What they're saying: Cobb County Commissioner Jerica Richardson, who was elected in 2020 and would be forced out of office at the end of the year, said it's not clear what would happen if they approved the proposal.

  • "That's what has to be adjudicated," she said. "It has never been asked before. And we've also never been in this situation before."

The other side: State Reps. Ed Setzler and Ginny Ehrhart both told Axios there is no legal basis for the county proceeding with the proposal because the Georgia Constitution keeps redistricting powers with the state.

  • "The sad thing is that they are expecting the county taxpayers to foot the bill for this debacle," Ehrhart said.

Yes, but: State Rep. Erick Allen said it's unprecedented for the state legislature to use redistricting to draw local elected officials out of their districts.

  • He also said this year's process targeted Black women who were elected in 2018 and 2020 in traditionally conservative East Cobb: Charisse Davis of the Cobb County Board of Education; Richardson; and U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath.
  • "So, there's some fundamental issues that we need to be fighting," he said. "I think the reinstitution of a map is the least of those."

What we're watching: Cobb commissioners will vote on the proposal twice next month.

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