A reapportionment hearing brought voters from throughout the region to the Albany State University West Campus theater on Tuesday.
ALBANY — A reapportionment hearing brought voters from throughout the region to the Albany State University West Campus theater on Tuesday, but one of the most repeated requests to lawmakers is not likely to become a reality.
Several of those who made comments at the joint Georgia Senate and House reapportionment hearing asked that lawmakers hold another session with voters after the final U.S. Census Bureau numbers are in and proposed maps have been prepared using those numbers.
The hearings, which continue through this week at other locations across the state, are part of the redistricting process required every 10 years to redraw legislative districts based on shifts in population.
“The issue we’re going to have this year is the compacted time (frame),” state Sen. John F. Kennedy, R-Macon, chair of the Senate Reapportionment and Redistricting Committee, said during an interview after the hearing. “Ordinarily we would have the (census) data by April 1.”
The decennial county was delayed last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the final 2020 numbers are not expected until late September, Kennedy said.
About 22 residents from Albany and other cities, including Baconton, Thomasville and Valdosta, offered their opinions to lawmakers.
Politicians could give in to drawing new district lines in a partisan fashion, developing a bipartisan plan that protects current officeholders in both parties or racial gerrymandering, Albany resident Henry Mathis told the group of nine Republicans and five Democrats. Most of the group were in Albany for the hearing on Tuesday, while others attended virtually.
“One of these methods will be used to redraw the lines,” Mathis said. “The question is: Which method will be used? Will this process be guided by partisanship? Which direction are we going in for the state of Georgia? I ask you to (avoid) gerrymandering now.”
Others who made comments asked the lawmakers to make sure the state’s minority populations are protected so their voices are heard in elections.
Since the 2000 U.S. Census count, the white voting age population in the state has decreased by 9 percent, while the voting-age population of Asians has grown by 40 percent and by nearly 30 percent for Hispanics, Kimberly Fountain, the senior community engagement director for the ACLU of Georgia, told the group of lawmakers.
“We are here in Albany today, a community that reflects the diversity of Georgia today,” she said.
Fountain asked the group to hold hearings on proposed district maps and to include districts that provide minority voters to be included with their core groups to elect leaders that are representative of their groups.
She also asked that online comment forms for the reapportionment committee be provided in languages other than English to allow input from voters whose first language is one other than English.
“I am concerned about the process,” Albany resident Benny Hand said during his comments. “I want to believe this process will be fair and equitable. I am concerned the process (could be) gerrymandered to dilute the voice of certain communities. I would echo that after we have (final) numbers, we have another opportunity to address the committee.”
State Sen. Tonya Anderson, D-Lithonia, said she has learned a lot through the hearings. The Tuesday meeting in Albany was the seventh of 11 scheduled.
“What I’ve learned is the people are very engaged and they are concerned about a fair and transparent process,” Anderson, who represents portions of DeKalb, Newton and Rockdale counties, said during an interview following the hearing. “I’m excited to see them engaged.”
- By Alan Mauldin firstname.lastname@example.org
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This is not a scientific poll — results reflect only the opinions of those voting.