Reapportionment could remove Rynders from Dougherty mix

Photo by Jim West

Photo by Jim West

ALBANY, Ga. -- State Rep. Ed Rynders spoke at the Albany Area Chamber of Commerce's "Lunch with Leaders" meeting at the Albany Welcome Center on Thursday.

Rynders, R-Leesburg, addressed the increase in Georgia's population as a whole, as confirmed by the 2010 national census report, and the decrease in population in the southern part of the state, including Dougherty County.

"The good news for Georgians is that over the past 10 years, our state population has increased by 18.3 percent to a total of 9,687,653," Rynders said. "The bad news is that during the same period, Dougherty County (population) has decreased from just more than 96,000 to around 94,500."

The overall increase in state population has earned Georgia an addition seat in Congress, bringing the state's U.S. House delegation from 13 to 14 members. In Dougherty County, there is concern about what the smaller population numbers mean to the area's future. Some expect South Georgia to lose at least two Senate seats and at least six House seats, said Charles Bullock, a professor of political science at the University of Georgia.

By law, government leaders must now adjust district lines to accurately reflect the current population figures, Rynders said.

Because of the new population and demographic figures, it's possible the House Reapportionment Committee may divide Dougherty County equally between district 150, represented by Winfred Dukes, and district 151, represented by Carol Fullerton. This would remove district 152 -- and Rynders -- from the Dougherty County mix.

"There's a strong possibility I will no longer be representing a part of Dougherty County," Rynders said.

According to Rynders, the House Redistricting Committee will meet Monday for a special redistricting session. Rynders is a member of that committee, which includes 14 Republicans and eight Democrats.

Technically, Georgia is one of nine states that must receive approval from the U.S. Justice Department for the final district maps. However, according to recent media reports, there is a move under way to sidestep that review.

As an alternative, the Voting Rights Act permits states to file a declaratory judgment action in the US District Court for the District of Columbia. A panel of judges would then review the maps. The move is intended to avoid what some state Republicans believe is a biased Obama-appointed DOJ.

Rynders told Albany chamber members that in view of the anticipated reduction in state representation, the local chamber may want to consider acting more as a "regional" chamber of commerce and to reach out to "build relationships" with more distant counties.

"Think regionally," Rynders said.