Apr 17, 2024 - News

Supreme Court to decide if Cobb can redraw commission districts

A side by side comparison of the legislature-drawn Cobb Commission district map and the map preferred by commissioners.

Courtesy of the Legislative and Congressional Reapportionment Office

The Georgia Supreme Court will hear arguments Wednesday morning in Cobb County's appeal of a lower court's ruling that said it did not have the power to redraw its commission district map.

Why it matters: A ruling in Cobb's favor could bring an end to the longstanding practice of state legislators redrawing county commissions districts following each U.S. Census count.

State of play: A Cobb County Superior Court judge ruled in January that it was unconstitutional for the county's Board of Commissioners to redraw its district boundaries.

  • Cobb appealed the decision, and the outcome of its nearly two-year battle to wrangle control over the redistricting process from the state now rests with Georgia's highest court.

Catch up quick: In 2022, state legislators began redrawing district lines for county commissions and local boards of education following the 2020 census.

  • Local governments usually draft and approve district lines with their local lawmakers before they're expedited through the Capitol.
  • That did not happen in 2022; Republican state legislators representing Cobb introduced a new map that put two incumbents — Democrat Jerica Richardson and Republican JoAnn Birrell — in one district.
  • That map was adopted by the General Assembly and signed into law.

Citing the Home Rule clause in the Georgia Constitution, county commissioners adopted their own redrawn district map in place of the one approved by legislators.

  • Two county residents, David and Catherine Floam, sued the county over its actions.

What is Home Rule? This provision in the Georgia Constitution gives counties and cities the power to self-govern and enact local ordinances that don't affect eight stipulations, including the salaries of elected officials and the composition, form and compensation of a county's governing authority.

  • Home Rule does allow city governments to redraw their own wards and districts.

Friction point: Cobb also used its redrawn map for the purposes of qualifying for the 2024 primary and general election.

  • This has led to confusion among some candidates who thought they lived in the districts where they were running, but were disqualified under the county map.

What's next: Justices are required to hand down a decision no later than the end of their next term, which is around mid-November, Supreme Court spokesperson Kathleen Joyner told Axios.

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