Feb 28, 2023 - Politics

New legislation reignites district map battle

cobb map

The map on the left was approved last year by the state legislature while the map on the right reflects how Cobb County is currently operating. Credit: Legislative and Congressional Reapportionment Office

The battle over Cobb County's decision to adopt its own district map over boundaries redrawn by the state is back in the spotlight.

Driving the news: Senate Bill 124 passed Monday out of the Reapportionment and Redistricting committee.

  • The legislation, sponsored by state Sen. Ed Setzler (R-Acworth), restates that counties do not have the constitutional authority to redraw their own maps.
  • An accompanying bill, SB 236, would reimpose the controversial Cobb County district map — which placed two commissioners in one district — drawn by legislators last year.

Why it matters: The issue raises questions about whether Home Rule powers granted in the Georgia Constitution that allow cities to redraw their wards should extend to counties.

  • Those powers give cities and counties the ability to enact certain laws without the General Assembly’s approval.

Catch up quick: Cobb county leaders insist they're within their rights to draw their own maps. Some state lawmakers, like Setzler, disagree.

What they're saying: Setzler told Axios that SB 124 "makes it crystal clear" that there is no legal theory to support Cobb County's position that they can draw their district map.

  • "No county has ever once drawn their own district map because they don't have the power to do it," Setzler said.

The other side: One resident who spoke in opposition, Bryant McDaniel, said redrawing elected officials out of districts "serves to undermine our representative democracy by nullifying an election and the voice of the voters."

  • "Why would we as voters bother to vote if our votes can simply be nullified after a free and fair election?” he asked.
  • Cobb spokesperson Ross Cavitt told Axios that the county attorney is reviewing the bill.

Between the lines: Todd Edwards, the deputy director of governmental affairs for the Association County Commissioners of Georgia, told Axios that the argument over whether counties have the power to redraw commission districts will have to be interpreted by the courts.

  • Edwards said ACCG's position is that counties should be granted the authority to redraw their maps like their municipal counterparts.

What we're watching: Last week, Republican County Commissioner Keli Gambrill and resident Larry Savage filed a lawsuit asking a judge to require the county to follow the state-approved map, according to the AJC.

What's next: The bills now move to the full Senate for consideration.


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