Recalling the ‘dead cat’ district, other remapping classes of Georgia’s previous

The point out lawmakers who will redraw Georgia’s district lines afterwards this calendar year hold a joint town hall listening to to obtain public input June 29, 2021, at South Forsyth Higher University in Cumming. Sherry Liang / GPB Information

The Democratic Social gathering seems on the increase in Georgia, with large gains above the previous couple election cycles, but the GOP continue to has its fingers on the levers of federal government, and its power brokers will probably do whichever they can to keep in demand.

That is the problem nowadays as lawmakers journey the state in advance of a to-be-scheduled particular session to redraw the state’s Congressional and legislative boundaries for the next 10 years. But 20 yrs in the past, the shoe was on the other foot, and Democrats were the ones in electricity and wanting to stem the growing tide of the Republican minority.

“Democrats have had a superior spherical of elections on this past round, Republicans have been owning great rounds going into 2000,” stated College of Ga political science professor Charles Bullock. “But as a minority celebration, it’s really hard to get the gains you have been making in statewide contests and translate that into seats in the Standard Assembly since as the minority social gathering, you are likely to have it’s possible ringside seats to check out, but you’re likely to be observing, not undertaking.”

As members of the general public weigh in on an unparalleled redistricting cycle, the previous two redistricting cycles can offer you insight into the coming struggle.


Ga Republicans ended up emotion their oats heading into the new millennium. However Democrat Roy Barnes remained in the governor’s mansion and Sens. Max Cleland and Zell Miller were being in the Senate, the U.S. Dwelling was break up 8-3 with a Republican advantage, and the wind was at the GOP’s back again in the point out Legislature as well, explained condition Rep. Sharon Cooper.

“Republicans at the time were being commencing to decide up far more and far more seats,” mentioned the Marietta Republican very first elected in 1996. “We ended up gaining steam in a march towards the the vast majority. We weren’t there but, but we had been finding up seats.”

This was not shed on Barnes, who had no desire to offer with a divided authorities, Bullock reported.

“Especially with regard to the condition Senate, somewhat fewer so with regard to the state Property, the maps have been drawn in the governor’s workplace fairly than by the redistricting committees or by the Georgia reapportionment office,” he reported.

When the maps arrived out, the partisan gerrymandering was distinct.

Georgia’s 1st Congressional District as it was from 2002 to 2005. A minimal finger reaches out from the main overall body of the district to Saxby Chambliss’ household in Colquitt County. Nationwide Atlas of the United States

The state’s 1st Congressional District on the southeast coastline, then represented by Republican Jack Kingston of Savannah, grew a tentacle to encompass then-Rep. Saxby Chambliss’ house in Moultrie, pitting the two Republicans from every single other in one particular district.

Chambliss would depart the district to Kingston and get his revenge by defeating Cleland in the 2002 Senate race.

Georgia’s new 13th Congressional District was dubbed by some the “dead cat on the expressway district.”

“It type of appeared like an animal that experienced been operate in excess of quite a few, several moments and flattened out,” Bullock reported. “The explanation had all those legs and tail and issues reaching out in all instructions was monitoring down and incorporating into a solitary district Black concentrations out in Lawrenceville, down in Griffin and a variety of other locations.”

The political mischief was just as undesirable mapping out the condition Legislature, the place 35 of the 76 GOP Dwelling customers had been paired, or drawn into districts with yet another lawmaker.

“I do not think that we realized heading in that it was genuinely going to be drawn in this kind of an extraordinary way,” Cooper said. “I was in management, and we, of class, ended up extremely anxious, and put up a fuss and threatened to sue and started increasing dollars to spend for a lawsuit.”

The 13th Congressional District in Georgia, at times referred to as the “dead cat on the expressway district,” as it was from 2003 to 2005. National Atlas of the United States

The consequences of that gerrymandering could be observed in the subsequent election, mentioned Cuffy Sullivan with Fair Districts, a nonpartisan group opposed to gerrymandering.

“After the election in 2002, Republicans elevated their statewide share of the vote to a vast majority but didn’t get even 1 additional seat,” she said. “The GOP Home seat share stayed particularly the very same. So we can say these maps had been not responsive to voters.”

Barnes was not capable to carve up the point out map to stop his possess decline that 12 months to Sonny Perdue, Georgia’s 1st Republican governor in 131 yrs. Perdue gained a condition Senate seat 3 occasions in the 1990s right before turning into Republican in 1998, in advance of the bash-switching hurry that would comply with.

Just after the 2002 election, Republicans challenged the maps in federal courtroom. In 2004, the Supreme Courtroom ruled that the maps ended up unconstitutional and requested the point out to draw new types.

Meanwhile, the state Senate had flipped to Republican management immediately after four Democrats switched functions, and the two chambers had been unable to come to an agreement on new maps.

“At some level, we mentioned, search, if you will attract maps that give us, like, 84 seats, you know, as we march towards 91 — this is the minority management — then we will just take the maps as drawn,” Cooper claimed. “We figured that we could acquire these seats if the maps ended up pretty drawn, and the Democrats refused to do it.”

As a end result, the federal federal government despatched a judge down to Ga to draw new maps. When the new boundary traces have been in drive in 2004, the Republican share of seats elevated with the share of votes as a person would assume, Sullivan mentioned. But in 2006, the GOP-controlled legislature handed a bill to transform 8 Household districts and hold the court-drawn map just about everywhere else.

“In the up coming election, you can see how these little changes operate to their advantage,” Sullivan mentioned. “The vote share stayed the identical, but the GOP seat share enhanced by 10.”


The subsequent redistricting cycle arrived at a significant issue for Republicans in Georgia. Their dominance in the Legislature was not in problem, so they experienced no need to have to vacation resort to the forms of measures Democrats had a ten years just before, but they still drew maps that gave their celebration rewards.

“The Republicans have been hoping to get a supermajority, so the maps were designed to pick up some seats, but not test to squeeze out all the things possible,” Bullock mentioned. “So you glimpse at the maps and they really don’t seem as incredible as some of the maps of the state legislative districts 10 years earlier. They surely favored Republicans, but they were not striving to pick up each conceivable seat.”

Like the Democrats ahead of them, the Republicans drew maps in a way that increased their power even as their share of the vote shrank.

“Even though the statewide Republican vote share diminished, their seats in the Residence amplified, and following a mid-decade redistricting in 2012, grew to become a tremendous majority with much less statewide votes,” Sullivan explained. “The GOP then handed one more midcycle invoice in 2015 to dangle on to that gain.”

“We are a nonpartisan group,” she additional. “We can convey to you that whoever is in manage totally puts their thumb on the scale, for the reason that they can.”

Longtime state Rep. Carolyn Hugley, a Columbus Democrat, has viewed this sausage-producing from both of those angles.

As a Democrat who has served in the Home considering that 1993, Hugley has witnessed the process participate in out as the two a member of the minority occasion – as she is now – and as a element of the majority in manage.

Right after the 2010 redistricting, 12 House Democrats were paired in districts with other lawmakers, Hugley said, but she said it transpired to 8 Republican incumbents far too.

Democrats were being also astonished by Republicans ending a many years-extensive partnership with the College of Georgia’s Carl Vinson Institute of Federal government and changing it with a new govt business office referred to as the Legislative and Congressional Reapportionment Workplace and using the services of an legal professional who also served as counsel to the point out Republican Occasion to direct it.

“We had been concerned about the same issues you listen to people talking about now,” she mentioned. “We were involved about accountability and transparency, and our problem was to make sure that our associates experienced an option to take part in a nonpartisan way, but when you experienced the Republican normal counsel getting the counsel to the reapportionment workplace, that proved to be tough.”


General public hearings for this year’s redistricting method are underway across the state appropriate now, but the nitty gritty do the job of redrawing district lines will not begin until eventually the new census population details comes, which is anticipated to happen by this tumble.

In a ordinary yr, that inhabitants details arrives in the spring with the map-earning underway by now. But the pandemic delayed the nationwide headcount, pushing back the redistricting and reapportionment system.

What comes about immediately after the details comes depends mainly on the procedures adopted by the GOP-managed committees steering the procedure.

Adopting committee procedures may perhaps sound like bureaucratic tedium, but all those guidelines will make a difference, especially for any individual on the outdoors on the lookout in on a approach regarded to be secretive and opaque. No day has been set for just about every chamber’s committee to meet up with to adopt the new suggestions.

In a July 15 electronic mail, Macon Republican Sen. John F. Kennedy, chair of the Senate Reapportionment Committee, explained the committee will adopt recommendations “in the near long run.”

Last decade’s pointers outlined significant areas of the approach like restrictions for public entry to files and the needs for publishing a proposed or alternate map – something Democrats and outside groups will want to do.

Hugley reported these principles of engagement need to have to be made a decision ahead of House Democrats can hash out a match program for the approaching exclusive session.

“I’m hopeful that the districts will abide by the populace traits, and conceivably, there need to be extra Democratic districts since our state is about 50-50 in terms of our politics – Democrat, Republican,” she claimed.

In spite of significant Democratic victories statewide, Republicans final year held off a push to attain command of the condition Property below the latest maps. Household Democrats only netted two seats last 12 months when they desired 16.

Household Democrats will go into redistricting with their eye on the increasing suburbs north of Atlanta, the place they have picked off seats in current elections and in which the recent leftward change in the burbs will make it tougher for Republicans to find GOP-helpful turf.

With demographic trends showing to favor Georgia Democrats in the close to term, Republicans may possibly be tempted to repeat some of the techniques Democrats took in 2000, but that may perhaps not be the proper lesson to choose from 2000, Bullock explained.

Alternatively, by having a moderate technique and sacrificing some seats in parts trending Democratic, Republicans might be equipped to produce a greater part that is smaller numerically but a lot more solidly conservative, Bullock reported.

“The hope would be that those people would be districts that Republicans could keep via the 2030 elections,” he explained. “So it is doable that they could come out with maps in which Democrats actually make some gains.”

For now, Democrats can do little extra than hope what ever arrives out of the committee is fairly reasonable.

“Whoever has the crayon receives to draw the rules and the way these maps are heading to seem. Which is not missing on me,” explained Residence Minority Chief James Beverly, a Macon Democrat. “But we would hope that the public would weigh in in these a way that we form of tilt it towards fairness and justice.”

If not, they could just take a page from the Republican playbook just after 2000 and take the subject to court docket, he added.

“If it does not, I consider we have redress in the courts,” he mentioned. “Hopefully, we never have to get there, and they’ll embrace their greater angels.”

Deputy editor Jill Nolin contributed to this report