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Redistricting looms over area

Few acts of the state Legislature have more impact on areas politically than reapportionment.

That's when the General Assembly meets to redraw political lines in the state on every level: local, state House and Senate districts, and congressional districts.

The time to draw those new political lines starts Monday when the state Legislature returns to the Gold Dome for a special session. When it's over, the lawmakers' work will be reviewed by federal officials and, if it passes muster, become the basis for electing officials for the next decade.

It's no surprise that rural areas of Georgia -- including Southwest Georgia -- face the prospects of losing some more political clout when the ink dries on the paper. Georgia has seen a nice jump in population, growing by a little more than 18 percent to nearly 9.7 million people. But most of those people have gravitated to the metro Atlanta and north Georgia areas, not our end of the state. In fact, Dougherty County's population between the 2000 and 2010 censuses fell by about 1,500 people.

What that means for us is larger geographic districts to pull in enough residents to meet the one-person/one-vote requirement. The 2nd Congressional District will grow in size, as will many state House and Senate districts in our area.

When it comes to having influence in the Legislature, it helps to have someone in the majority party in your delegation. That may not be the case for Dougherty County in the future.

Dougherty now is represented by one senator and three representatives. Sen. Freddie Powell Sims, D-Dawson, is the lone senator, and that's unlikely to change. Reps. Winfred Dukes, D-Albany; Carol Fullerton, D-Albany, and Ed Rynders, R-Leesburg, comprise the House delegation.

Given the way the numbers are looking, Rynders told local leaders Thursday, there's a good chance that his District 152 will lose the portion of Dougherty County that is now included in it, leaving the county split between Fullerton's District 151 and Dukes' District 150.

That would leave Dougherty County with a double whammy, politically. First, it would cut a quarter of our current representation.

Second, it would take away the only member of the delegation who is a member of the political party that is in control of not only the Legislature, but also the governor's office and the slate of statewide officials.

Rynders, who has gained influence in the Legislature during his tenure, has been a positive for Dougherty County, and we would hope that, should the county be carved from his district, he would continue to be a strong proponent.

And he was right when he said Thursday that folks in our area need to think more regionally. Forming strong relationships among cities and counties that have similar interests and needs will be even more critical in the coming years.

As the population continues to move toward the growth parts of Georgia, you don't need tea leaves to read the future politically. The numbers speak for themselves.