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DeKalb House Delegation holds first public meeting on county redistricting

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DeKalb House Delegation holds first public meeting on county redistricting

Members of the DeKalb House Delegation met with County Commissioenr Robert Patrick and School Board Chair Vickie Turner to hold a public hearing about redistricting. Photo is a screenshot of the meeting.

Atlanta, GA  — The DeKalb House Delegation, made up of the state representatives who represent parts of DeKalb County, held the first of three public hearings on the proposed maps for the DeKalb County Board of Commissioners.

The DeKalb Board of Commissions and DeKalb County School Board are in the process of redistricting and drawing the lines for their districts. But the final decision will be the state Legislature’s, and one idea being considered is eliminating the county’s two super districts, creating seven districts that do not overlap.

At the beginning of the year, the county commissioner passed their version of the commission districts and super districts maps. The map was submitted and reviewed by the Legislative and Congressional Reapportionment Office at the state legislature.

After discussion by the commissioners in a special called meeting, the maps were drawn based on a combination of voting precincts and the preservation of municipal boundaries. The maps were approved by the DeKalb Board of Commissioners with five districts and two super districts, DeKalb Board of Commissioners Chairman Robert Patrick said.

An idea is being floated around about reshaping the DeKalb County government. State Sen. Emanuel Jones is working on a redistricting proposal that would eliminate the super districts and shift the county to seven single-member districts instead of five. That proposal has received pushback from commissioners. The supporters of the current super districts argue that those changes should be considered as part of reviewing DeKalb County’s charter. Charters are, in essence, the constitutions of cities and county governments. They define their powers and responsibilities, and also establish their forms of government.

In a press release, Commissioner Jeff Rader said, “The DeKalb Delegation to the General Assembly is ultimately responsible for a final map adopted through local legislation, and these maps make few changes from the current districts, primarily unifying cities within districts. Changing the structure to eliminate super districts carries unforeseen consequences better considered through charter review.”

The representatives from DeKalb are currently holding public hearings and have not drawn their maps yet.

“This an evolutionary process, meaning that you will see what map we have today. This is what the House is doing,” Rep. Karla Drenner (D-Avondale Estates) said. “When I say that it is our goal to have one county, to have the best commission, the best school board that we possibly can have, I can guarantee you that is our intention.”

The map of the five commission districts the county approved had an overall difference between the five districts was 5.44% in terms of population. Patrick said the districts were fairly similar concerning population. The overall difference between the two super districts was 0.07%

The Legislative and Congressional Reapportionment Office changed the county’s maps slightly. The office found several inconsistencies in the five-district map.

“County voting precincts were split for smaller numbers of people that can create a voter anonymity issue,” Patrick said. “Precincts split for zero population would still require that the county create a ballot combo even if there were no people living in that area. There were approximately 13 precincts split between districts and places where the geography jumped back and forth between sides of the road or other features.”

After the LCRO changed the five districts, only two voting precincts were divided, and those are along the lines that are currently divided.

“Some of the other boundary adjustments were made in order to draw them as equally as possible, with an overall deviation of 1.26%,” Patrick said.

The LCRO also found some inconsistencies on the super district map, noting small splits of voting precincts and inconsistencies in map data, like jumping off a road and then back onto it.

“After the LCRO changes, there are only now two split precincts. Those follow the current district line where the split occurs,” Patrick said. “In order to maintain the precincts, the deviation is now at a range of 0.4%. [It’s] very close, very mindful of equality between the districts for that level of representation.”

He added that the technical changes from the LCRO are relatively minimal and maintain the cores of the districts from the current maps and those the county submitted.

The DeKalb County School Board is also going through the redistricting process. School Board Chair Vickie Turner said the school board should receive their district maps from the LCRO this week and will release those to the public.

DeKalb County residents who wish to provide feedback on the maps can participate in future public hearings or contact their representative.

The DeKalb House Delegation will host public hearings on Tuesday, Feb. 8, at 6:30 p.m. via Zoom and Wednesday, Feb. 9, at noon on Facebook Live.

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