The Democratic Caucus of the Georgia House of Representatives on Friday released a draft redistricting map that would radically change how Oconee County is represented in the Georgia House.
The Georgia Senate Democratic Caucus on Wednesday released its map for redistricting of the state Senate, and that plan would keep Oconee County whole in Senate District 46, as is the case at present.
On Oct. 21, both Democratic Caucuses released a plan for U.S. House Districts, and it, like the map released by the Georgia Senate Republican Caucus in late September, would put Oconee and all of Clarke together at the center of a district stretching from Walton County to the Savannah River.
The Democratic maps have virtually no chance of being approved by the Republican controlled General Assembly and signed by Republican Gov. Brian Kemp, but the boundaries of the legislative districts in which Oconee County falls must change.
Each of those legislative districts has more than the ideal population size, given the population growth since the 2010 Census.
The Georgia House and Senate Republican Caucuses have not yet released their maps, and the House Caucus also is expected to release its own Congressional map either before or after the General Assembly comes into special session on Wednesday.
The election tomorrow for a Council seat in North High Shoals took an ugly turn on Monday as news spread locally and nationally about a series of vulgar Snapchat messages targeting one of the candidates. At least one of those certainly was from another candidate.
Voters across the county will be deciding tomorrow on a Transportation Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax referendum, while Bogart voters will be deciding a Council race, and Watkinsville voters will select a mayor and Council member.
North High Shoals
At least three Snapchat messages circulated on Monday in which Jared Strickland, a candidate for Post 5 on the North High Shoals Council, attacked both The Oconee Enterprise and Meagan Cundiff, also running for Post 5.
One of the images has explicit and sexist language laid over a Strickland campaign sign.
Another has sexist and vulgar language overlaid on an article in the Oct. 28 edition of the Enterprise featuring Cundiff. (Strickland had been featured in an article in the paper a week earlier.)
The third Snapchat message is a short 32-second video clip of Strickland in which he claims the “liberals cheated, man, just like they did in the presidential election.” Strickland then uses vile language against the Enterprise and Cundiff.
The video and one of the images was picked up by Charles Bethea on Twitter and had more than 1,000 views on Monday evening. Bethea is a staff writer at The New Yorker with more than 21,000 followers on Twitter.
I texted Strickland on Monday afternoon and asked him to comment on his goal in sending these messages.
My text message is shown as delivered, but I did not receive a reply.
Strickland listed has age as 22 in his candidacy papers and his occupation as student/IT professional/business owner. He said he has lived in Oconee County and North High Shoals for eight years.
Cundiff, 36, lists her occupation as paramedic in the qualifying documents. She has lived in Oconee County and North High Shoals for four years.
Cundiff participated in a nonpartisan Meet and Greet organized by the Oconee County Democratic Party on Oct. 21.
According to Ann Stoneburner and Pam Davis, who organized the event, Strickland had said he would participate but withdrew just before the session began.
Elections are nonpartisan, and Kathy Hurley, chair of the Oconee County Republican Party, said Strickland introduced himself to the party at one of its meetings, probably in September.
In an email message on Monday, Hurley said this was “a courtesy opportunity for all candidates. Less than one minute of time.”
“If you are asking if the Oconee GOP sought out Jared Strickland to be a candidate for the Council seat, the answer would be a firm no,” she wrote.
Strickland’s father, Steven Strickland, preceded Hurley as Oconee County Republican Party Chair and has represented North High Shoals on the Oconee County Planning Commission.
Ideal District Sizes
The ideal Georgia House District, given the population growth in the state, has 59,511 residents, the ideal size of Georgia Senate District is 191,284, and the ideal size of each U.S. Congressional District is 765,136.
At present, the 117th Georgia House District has 62,578 residents, and the 119th House District has 64,173 residents. All but three of Oconee County 12 precincts are in the 119th. East Oconee, Marswood Hall, and Bogart are in the 117th.
Senate District 46, which includes Oconee and parts of Clarke and Walton counties, has 203,757 residents.
The 10th Congressional District, made up of all or parts of 25 counties including Oconee, has a population of 775,012.
The population of Georgia grew from 9,687,653 in 2010 to 10,711,908 in the 2020 Census, meaning that, on average, each of the 14 Congressional Districts has to increase in size by 73,161, each of the 56 Senate Districts has to increase by 18,290, and each of the 180 House Districts has to increase by 5,691.
Any growth beyond those amounts has to be eliminated by redrawing the District lines.
Democratic House Map
At present, the 117th House District is made up of parts of Oconee, Clarke, Jackson, and Barrow counties, and the 119th is about evenly divided between Oconee and Clarke counties.
|Democratic Georgia House Map|
Republican Houston Gaines from Athens and Republican Marcus Wiedower from Oconee County hold the 117th and 119th respectively.
The Democratic House Caucus Map would split Oconee County into three districts.
The bulk of the county would be in a 112th District with Walton and Morgan counties.
Another section of the county would be in the 117th with Clarke County.
A final sliver would be joined with Clarke, Oglethorpe, Greene, and Taliaferro counties.
The 119th District would be moved to Clayton and Fayette counties.
(Click on any of the maps to enlarge it.)
“This map fairly reflects Georgia’s diverse population and allow voters of color an equal opportunity to elect their candidates of choice, reflects the political preferences of Georgia voters, and reflects changing population trends within the state,” the Democratic Party said in a news release on Friday.
Democratic Senate Map
At present, Oconee County is the only of three counties whole in the 46th Senate District, represented by Republican Bill Cowsert of Athens.
The Democratic Party map would still include those three counties, but all of Clarke County would be joined with the entirety of Oconee County and parts of Walton County.
|Democratic Georgia Senate Map|
That change would almost certainly make the District more Democratic, as Clarke County at present is split between the 46th and 47th Senate Districts, with both of them represented by a Republican.
“The proposal contains 22 districts in which minorities are a majority of residents and a majority of the voting age population, an increase from the 20 such districts that currently exist,” according to the Democratic Party news release issued on Oct. 27.
“The new map also more fairly represents the partisan makeup of Georgia’s electorate by establishing 25 districts that will likely elect Democrats, 27 that will likely elect Republicans, and 4 competitive districts,” the news release states.
The Democratic map for the state’s 14 Congressional Districts is distinct from the map released by the Republican Senate on Sept. 27.
|Democratic Congressional Map|
The Democratic map is geographically simpler.
Oconee County would fall into the 9th Congressional District, rather than the 10th, as is the case today and as is proposed by the Republican plan released in September.
The Democratic 9th District, however, is quite similar to the 10th in the Republican plan.
In both maps, Oconee and Clarke counties are at the core of a large district stretching from metropolitan Atlanta to the South Carolina border.
“This proposed congressional map provides a fair opportunity for voters of color in Georgia to elect the representatives of their choice, as minorities make up a majority of the residents in six of the 14 districts,” according to the party news release on Oct. 21. Those are Districts 2, 4, 5, 7, 10, and 13.
“The proposal also fairly represents the partisan makeup of Georgia’s evenly-divided electorate, with seven districts that lean Democratic and seven districts that lean Republican,” the release continued.
“Additionally, with seven districts centered within Metro Atlanta, this proposal rightly acknowledges that more than half of all Georgians live in Metro Atlanta, which has driven more than two-thirds of Georgia’s population growth over the last decade,” the release continues.
As of the end of the early voting in Oconee County on Friday, only 1,076 (3.3 percent) of the county’s 32,066 registered voters had cast a ballot in early in-person voting or by returning an absentee ballot, suggesting that only a small number of voters is going to decide the issue.
|Republican Congressional Map|
The Oconee County Board of Elections and Registration received another 10 absentee ballots on Monday, according to Jennifer Stone, assistant director of Elections and Registration for the county, bringing the total number of votes to 1,086.
In Watkinsville, 266 (11.9 percent) of 2,238 registered voters have cast a ballot in early voting.
In Bogart, 32 (3.3) of the city’s 953 voters have cast a ballot.
In North High Shoals, 34 (7.0 percent) of the town’s 484 voters have cast a ballot.
The number of absentee ballots in the three cities won’t be known until ballots are opened on election day.
The race between Cundiff and Strickland is the only contested election in North High Shoals.
The contested races in Watkinsville are between Rebecca Billings and incumbent Brian Brodrick for mayor and between Connie Massey, the incumbent, and Carolyn Maultsby, seeking election to Post 2 on Council.
In Bogart, Jenny Bridges, David Kilpatrick, and Greg Maddox are seeking two council seats, now held by Bridges and Kilpatrick. The top vote getters will be seated.
The Transportation Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax, if approved, will increase the county sales tax from 7 to 8 percent, with the new revenue to be used for transportation projects.
In-person voting will be from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. tomorrow (Tuesday) at the county’s regular polling places.