One Man’s Opinion: Map Maker, Map Maker... Build Me a Map

It is going to be a looonnnggggg Election year.  Hopefully, that also potentially means a short legislative session for our Georgia General Assembly.  Our nation’s Founders had excellent foresight.  In creating our republic, the Constitution requires a count of residents of these United States every 10 years.  The U.S. Senate would be the upper chamber, limited to 2 members representing each state (currently capped at 100 members and 50 states).  Popular election of U.S. Senators would not arrive until 1913, prior to that state legislatures or the Governor appointed Senators, as called for by their state charter or constitution.  The lower chamber, the U.S. House, would be the people’s chamber, with one member apportioned roughly equal to thousands of residents of each state.  The U.S. House has 435 members, including one non-voting representative of Washington, D.C., and each House member has 500,000-under 1,000,000 constituents.

Following each U.S. Census count, the respective legislatures of each state typically meet after the Census data has been gathered, and apportion the new population and draw or re-draw district maps.  After several decades of losing U.S. House majorities to the Democratic Party, largely based on swelling populations in urban centers, the GOP figured out that district map-making was done at the state level, and the party set about winning majorities in state legislatures and Governor’s offices.  In the current tally as of 2021, Republicans have full control of the legislative and executive branches in 23 states (predominantly the south, northwest, and parts of the midwest.  Democrats fully control 15 states, the west coast, the Pacific Northwest, and the bulk of the northeast.   The pandemic delayed the 2020 census tallies, pushing the map-drawing out of 2021, and into the 2022 election year.  In Congressional, state, and local races there will be incumbents who may find they no longer reside in the new maps of their district.

Georgia Republicans are now in control of their second map-making cycle, 2010 and now post-2020.  National population shifts have also moved more residents into predominantly red states like Florida, Texas and Georgia, and out of blue states such as California, New York, and Illinois.

During the 1994 re-drawing of Georgia Congressional Districts, the General Assembly, then still helmed by State House Speaker Thomas B. Murphy (D-Bremen), would present maps intended to reverse the GOP gains of the 1994 elections in the U.S. House delegation.  Several of the new maps looked more like Rorschach Ink Blot tests.  The newly created 11th Congressional District, reached from the tip of south Decatur all the way to Savannah, Georgia, along I-20, pulling in small pockets of minority voters from south DeKalb to the Atlantic Ocean.  That map was later determined to be too egregious even for fans of gerrymandering and former Massachusetts Governor Elbridge Gerry (Google it), and that map was tossed out by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1995.

Democratic Governor Roy Barnes in 2002 released a new set of maps intended to further strengthen Democratic majorities in the State House and Senate, potentially take back the U.S. House and deliver smiles to Democratic voters across the state.  Instead, voters delivered a shocking series of upsets, Governor Barnes, U.S. Senator Max Cleland, House Speaker Tom Murphy, and others were retired by Georgia voters, giving Georgia its first GOP Governor since Reconstruction and a GOP majority in the State Senate.

Flash forward to 2022, and the Georgia GOP is releasing its second set of Reapportionment maps.  Reapportionment is NOT intended as an incumbent protection process, and yet changes within Congressional district maps are largely limited to only four of fourteen Congressional districts.

Yes, there are now states where Reapportionment is conducted in a bi-partisan or by label non-partisan fashion, however, most of those committee members are in fact appointed by elected officials of one of two major political parties.  Taking California as the most visible example, California lost a Congressional seat due to shifts in the U.S. population and will be carving up 52 Congressional districts from what were once 53.  It appears that population gains in the San Francisco Bay area and around Silicon Valley will likely come at the loss of seats in the Los Angeles San Gabriel Valley region.  Even within a practical one-party state, there still will be perceived winners and losers.

Just remember that whether the map makers are crackin’, packin’, or stackin’...the votes you cast still matter the most, and that time and again, map maker intent has NOT been followed by voter outcome.  Let the will of the people decide.

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