Monday, February 28, 2005

Georgia Power Grab Update

Unfortunately, the report is in the subscription-only Roll Call today, but here's the dish: Georgia Republican legislators have agreed on a re-redistricting of the state's Congressional districts that's basically designed to mess with two Democratic incumbents and shore up a vulnerable Republican incumbent.

Freshman Dem Rep. John Barrow's home county of Clarke (Athens) is moved out of his district, though his staff makes it clear he'll run for re-election in the 12th anyway. Interestingly enough, the map-drawers managed to actually increase the African-American percentage of the voting age population in the 12th while reducing its Democratic performance level. That's because Athens (home of the University of Georgia) probably has more white Democrats than any city in the state. Still, it remains a majority-Democratic district, and it's hard to call Barrow a carpetbagger when the carpet's actually been pulled out from under him.

More serious damage was done to 3d District (central-west central GA) Rep. Jim Marshall, whose district goes from 40% African-American to 33%, with Bush having won 58% of the 2000 vote (the measure of GOP performance since the population figures are from the 2000 census) in the new map as opposed to 52% in the old. Since Marshall waxed Calder Clay, a well-funded and hand-picked GOP challenger in 2004, by a 63-37 margin, Georgia Dems think he should be able to hold the district. But it's worth noting that the home of former Congressman Mac Collins, who lost the GOP Senate nomination in '04, has been quietly slipped into Marshall's district, which may mean Collins is considering a comeback.

Meanwhile, 11th District (northwest GA) Rep. Phil Gingrey would get a district radically reshaped in his favor, with the African-American population dropping from 28% to 12%, and Republican performance being boosted from 51% to 64%. This is no huge surprise, since the 11th was originally designed as a very competitive district. And while I wouldn't want to call the Gentleman from the 11th a wingnut or anything, it is rumored he has to wear special weights to keep him from keeling over on his right side while walking.

The lawyers who follow this sort of thing think the Power Grab will probably survive Voting Rights Act scrutiny, because its authors were careful to avoid any direct impact on Georgia's four African-American House incumbents. But there's a possible legal hook in the murky doctrine of "minority-influence districts," wherein the Voting Rights Act can be violated if action is taken to dilute a high if not majority percentage of minority voters, which arguably is the case with both the Marshall and Gingrey remaps.

According to Roll Call, some Georgia Dems are reportedly relieved that the re-redistricting was not as drastic as some had feared. Perhaps the threat of retaliation elsewhere had a mitigating effect. But the principle of the thing remains outrageous, and for my money, Democrats should wheel out the lawyers and write up the talking points to fight it.
-- Posted at 6:25 PM | Link to this post | Email this post

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