House and Senate committees voted Aug. 16 to approve maps of new legislative districts, clearing the maps through the first hurdle of the special session.
The House and Senate maps were drawn by redistricting committees in each chamber to reflect changes in population over the past decade.
Though the maps were approved in committee, the highly partisan process was not without its fair share of controversy.
At the Senate’s morning floor session, several Democratic senators expressed their frustration with the way the maps were drawn.
Senate Minority Leader Steve Henson said there was not enough time for Democrats to review the map of proposed Senate districts after they were released Aug. 12. Sen. Mitch Seabaugh, the chairman of the Senate Reapportionment and Redistricting Committee, would not accept the revisions to the map presented by the Democratic Caucus on Aug. 15.
“I’m very disappointed not only because people worked hard in good faith to prepare something for you, but for the people of Georgia,” Henson said. “The Republican leadership said it’s different than 10 years ago. It’s business as usual- ram it through the Legislature and go home.”
But Seabaugh said the committee rules, which were adopted in April, state that any amendments must be presented 24 hours prior to the meeting.“There will be no amendment offered because it didn’t meet the rule,” Seabaugh said. “Having a fair plan means you follow the rules. I am going to follow the rules.”
Seabaugh called this year’s redistricting process transparent and unprecedented because the maps were released to the public before the start of the special session.
In the House, Minority Leader Stacey Abrams presented a map drawn by House Democrats referred to as the Abrams substitution.
Abrams said the map met all legal and constitutional requirements while preserving more communities of interest than the map drawn up by the redistricting committee.
“It proves that the egregious effects of that proposed (House redistricting committee) plan are not necessary,” Abrams said. “We have corrected, I think, the unnecessary division of counties, the unnecessary division of cities and also avoided the unnecessary pairings of incumbents.”Majority Whip Edward Lindsey, a Buckhead Republican, grilled Abrams on the map, pointing out the many long, narrow districts and criticizing the Democrats’ late release of the map.
“You had three months,” Lindsey said. “You chose not to participate in the process.”
Following passage by the redistricting committees, the maps will be considered by the Rules Committees Aug. 17 before being presented to the House and Senate.