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DeKalb County could see significant changes to Senate, House districts in 2024

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DeKalb County could see significant changes to Senate, House districts in 2024

Georgia State Capitol. Photo by Dean Hesse.

DeKalb County, GA — The Georgia General Assembly has passed new state Legislative and congressional maps, which includes some significant changes to House and Senate seats in DeKalb County. 

Voters could see those changes starting next year, pending approval by a judge. In some cases, the maps radically alter the constituency of districts in the Decatur area, meaning people who have had the same representative for years will find themselves in a new district with new representation.

District Court Judge Steve C. Jones ruled in October that the state’s 2021 maps illegally diluted Black voting strength and violated Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, according to the Georgia Recorder

“That requires that Black voters in the state of Georgia have an opportunity to elect the candidate of their choice, which requires a certain amount of Black voters being in particular districts,” State Sen. Kim Jackson (D – Senate District 41) said during a town hall on Dec. 6. 

The ruling prompted the state Legislature held a special session that began on Nov. 29 to draw new political maps for the state House and Senate, as well as for Georgia’s United States House seats. 

All maps have passed the Legislature, and it’s up to Gov. Brian Kemp to sign off on them. The maps then go back to Judge Jones to decide if they comply with his order. Lawmakers had until Friday, Dec. 8, to submit new maps to Jones. 

A final decision has not been made on the legislative maps yet. A hearing is scheduled for Dec. 20 and the judge will likely rule on the maps by the end of December or January. 

According to the Georgia Recorder, the ruling applied to five congressional districts, 10 state Senate districts and 11 state House districts. 

“The remedy involves an additional majority-Black congressional district in west-metro Atlanta; two additional majority-Black Senate districts in south-metro Atlanta; two additional majority-Black House districts in south-metro Atlanta, one additional majority Black House district in west-metro Atlanta, and two additional majority-Black House districts in and around Macon-Bibb,” Jones wrote in the ruling. 

During the town hall on Wednesday, Dec. 6, Jackson laid out a few options for what could happen following the special session. 

– The judge could rule that the new maps do comply with his order and the Voting Rights Act, which means that the maps the Legislature passed this week would go into effect next year. 

– The judge could rule that the new maps do not comply with his order or the Voting Rights Act. In that case, a special master would come in and draw new maps based on demographics and population.

– The state has appealed Jones’ decision and the appellate court could rule that the 2021 maps were fine. The appeal will take time, so the decision the appellate court makes wouldn’t impact elections until 2026.

Jackson urged voters to pay close attention to their state legislators and the districts that are listed on their voter registration, because the districts and numbers may have changed. 

Most of the Senate and House districts in DeKalb County changed in some way during the special session. Here’s a look at how some of them could look:

DeKalb Senate Districts

Photos courtesy of the Georgia General Assembly.

In DeKalb County, state Sen. Elena Parent’s (D- Senate District 42) district, which would be District 44, shifts from a majority white district to a majority Black district. 

“I believe that all of the maps as passed are out of compliance with Judge Jones’ order and that they will be struck down by the court,” Parent said. “However, I will begin to plan to run for office in my new district, Senate District 44.”

Senate District 44 includes all of Druid Hills and Decatur, but does not include Brookhaven and the Medlock area. Parent would also represent part of Clayton County. 

“Completely new to the district is a good part of Clayton County, namely Morrow, Forest Park and Ellenwood,” she said. “The demographics of this new district are different, in that the Republicans decided to draw this district as a majority-Black Senate district. I am confident in being able to win a Senate seat in the newly drawn district and, most important, to be able to represent all constituents, regardless of race, socio-economic status or geographic location.” 

Sen. Kim Jackson (D – Senate District 41) would no longer represent Stone Mountain Village and picks up some of the North Druid Hills and Toco Hills area and areas south to Stonecrest. Stone Mountain Village would be in Senate District 55, which is currently represented by Rep. Gloria Butler. 

Sen. Emanuel Jones (D – Senate District 10) would represent Avondale Estates and parts of North Druid Hills as well. 

DeKalb House Districts

Photos courtesy of the Georgia General Assembly.

In the state House, Reps. Becky Evans (D – Atlanta) and Saira Draper (D – Atlanta) were paired together in District 90. They would be in the same district and would have to run against each other next year. 

Democrats have argued that Republicans targeted Democrats during the redistricting process. 

“I’ve been elected three times in a majority Black district with over 65% Black [population],” Evans said. “Rep. Draper was elected in a majority Black district with 58% Black population. She’s been elected as a candidate of choice. Basically, they’re eliminating a candidate of choice by Black Democrats by combining these districts.”

She added that the maps are unnecessarily disruptive as the legislators have developed relationships and gotten to know their communities. 

The proposed District 90 still encompasses the portion of the city of Atlanta that’s in DeKalb County, as well as about six precincts that are currently in District 89. 

In total, there were nine instances where House representatives will be pitted against each other. No Senate districts will be similarly paired. Among House Democrats, those matchups include Smyrna Reps. Teri Anulewicz and Doug Stoner, and Gwinnett County Reps. Sam Park, who is the Minority Caucus Whip, and Gregg Kennard. For Republicans, Rep. David Knight would be paired with Rep. Beth Camp, according to the Georgia Recorder

Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver (D – Decatur) currently represents District 82, but is under District 84 in the new maps. Her district would encompass more of the city of Decatur and extend to Stonecrest.

House District 84, however, does not include Emory University and the North Druid Hills area, which makes up the bulk of District 82. Oliver said she would lose over 80% of her current district. 

“It is changed from a majority white to a majority Black district. It starts at my house, which is at the top of the district, and goes south and southeastern,” Oliver said.

Oliver currently represents the northern half of Decatur, and her new district would also include the Winnona Park area. 

“It will be confusing for us who have to qualify in March, but it’s going to be more confusing for the voters,” Oliver said. 

Rep. Omari Crawford (D – Decatur) would represent District 89 rather than 84 under the proposed map. The new District 89 would extend up into Druid Hills and extend further south than District 84 currently does. 

Crawford currently represents the city of Avondale Estates and parts of Decatur, including Winnona Park. Under the proposed District 89, Crawford would not represent Avondale Estates and would shift to representing the Oakhurst area in Decatur. 

Rep. Karla Drenner (D – Avondale Estates) represents District 85. She would pick up the Medlock area, that Oliver loses. Her new district would also include the city of Avondale Estates and extend into South DeKalb. She would lose the Midway, Peachcrest, Austin Drive, Columbia Drive, Snapfinger Elementary, Snapfinger Road and Canby Lane Elementary precincts. These areas would become part of Oliver’s district, District 84. 

To see the 2021 legislative maps, click here and click on the “statewide plans” tab. To see the proposed 2023 maps, check out the same link and click on the “proposed plans” tab.

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