Oconee County’s two delegates in the Georgia House of Representatives agreed after a town hall style meeting in Bogart in April to release maps showing how their two districts could be reconfigured in the next meeting of the General Assembly to put all of Oconee County voters back into a single district.
Following that meeting, Dan O’Connor, a data analyst in the Reapportionment Office of the General Assembly, provided me the detailed maps–the first ever released–showing the changes in House Districts 117 and 119 requested before the legislative session in January by Rep. Regina Quick from the 117th District.
Those changes were never introduced to the General Assembly, but both Quick and Rep. Chuck Williams from the 119th District said at the Bogart meeting that they are prepared to ask for the changes when the General Assembly reconvenes in January of next year.
Neither presented an overly optimistic assessment of the chances the changes actually would be made, but they agreed to try to bring them about.
Williams Raised Issue
The Oconee County Board of Commissioners had set up the meeting at the Bogart Community Center on April 9, and the commissioners invited Quick, Williams and Sen. Bill Cowsert to join them.
The crowd was sparse–fewer than 20 people turned out–and most of the questions were directed at the legislative leaders.
Near the end of the session, Williams brought up the issue of redistricting, saying “some of the folks in the audience are real tuned in” to the issue. Quick made specific reference to the maps she had had drawn up of the new districts.
I had asked O’Connor for the maps in an email message on March 31, and he indicated he needed approval from Quick before he would be able to release them.
I made the request of both Quick and Williams following the April 9 meeting. O’Connor sent the maps to me with an email message the next day.
Maps Show Easy Adjustment
In early February, Quick gave me a copy of legislation she had received that would change the composition of the two districts, but she did not release any maps. My analysis of that legislation indicated that the changes proposed were straightforward.
In Athens-Clarke County, Precinct 7C (Fire Station #3) would be moved from the 119th District to the 117th District. Precinct 7A (Timothy Baptist Church), currently split between the two districts, would become whole in the new 117th.
Precinct 4B (Memorial Park), currently split between the two districts, would continue to be divided, but the lines would be redrawn.
In Oconee County, the precincts of Athens Academy, Bogart and Malcom Bridge would be moved from the 117th to the 119th.
No changes would be made in the parts of the 117th District falling in Barrow and Jackson counties.
The maps released by O’Connor show those changes.
Current And Proposed Maps
The first map below is for the districts as created in the legislative session in August of 2011, reflecting the interests of then Rep. Doug McKillip and the House leadership to create a Republican district, the 117th, for McKillip. (Click on the maps to enlarge them.)
|Current House District 117|
Quick defeated McKillip in the July 2012 Republican primary, and one of her campaign promises was to ask that the three precincts from Oconee County–Athens Academy, Malcom Bridge and Bogart–be moved into the 119th District, making the county whole again in a single House district.
The map below shows that change.
|House Districts 117 And 119 |
The detailed map below shows that the changes reflect a rather simple shift of parts of Clarke County from the 119th to the 117th to offset the loss of the three Oconee County precincts.
|House District 117 Proposed Change |
Clarke County Detail
Bill Never Introduced
Although Quick did ask that the legislation to change the districts be drafted, she never introduced the legislation in the House.
On Feb. 6, Rep. Randy Nix, LaGrange, a Republican and chair of the House Reapportionment Committee, held the sole meeting of that body during the session.
“When I talked to the Speaker,” Nix told the Committee at that meeting, “he indicated there might be some things we may do next session. So we’ll just see what direction we have from him on that.” He was referring to Speaker of the House David Ralston.
Quick told me that she talked to Nix and House Reapportionment Committee Vice-Chair Susan Holmes on Feb. 6 after the Committee meeting to make her case for consideration of redistricting.
“As best I can recall,” Quick told me in late March, “Chairman Nix spoke to me on the floor of the House the week of February 11 and told me that the Reapportionment Committee would not consider reapportionment this session.”
Next Session Strategy
Quick and Williams said at the Bogart meet that they did not feel there was a lot of interest in revisiting redistricting now that the U.S. Department of Justice has approved the 2011 district lines, but Quick said there was precedence for taking up the issue on a small scale even after the larger redistricting has been completed.
“It is relatively simple to do, or at least it seems to me,” Quick said of the changes she is seeking, “because it was simply a matter of swapping those three precincts back to Chuck’s district and finding the equivalent amount of population in the 117th to put back.”
Quick and Williams are both Republicans, and that party controls both houses of the General Assembly.
Cowsert also is a Republican and represents Oconee County in the Senate.
The Oconee County Board of Commissioners passed a resolution last November, before the legislative session, asking that the three precincts separated from the rest of the county in the 2011 special redistricting session of the legislature be reunited with the remainder of the county and that all of the county be in a single district.
At the meeting in Bogart, Commissioner Jim Luke thanked Williams “for coming on board with this thing.”
“If we never get it done,” Luke said, “we at least can say we tried.”
Luke said that discussion of the issues has died down, but the change “didn’t sit well” with voters when they realized at the last election that the county had been split into two districts.
“I appreciate your trying this time, and I look forward to your trying some more,” he said.
Video Recording Of Discussion
Russ Page recorded the meeting in Bogart. I attended and did ask Quick and Williams about redistricting after Williams brought up the topic.
The video clip below shows that section of the Bogart meeting dealing with redistricting.