Redistricting proposal for Fulton County creates three white, three black commission districts

By David Pendered

A redistricting proposal for Fulton County’s board of commissioners would create three commission districts serving majority white populations in north Fulton, and three districts serving majority black populations in south Fulton. The seventh post, county chair, would be elected and serve countywide.

This plan is moving at a time Fulton County’s government appears to have no registered lobbyists to present its views at the Capitol. The county’s previous lobbyist, Michael Vaquer, who served six years, terminated representation Dec. 31, according to the state’s Government Transparency Commission.

Proposed districts, Fulton County's board of commissioner. Credit: Ga. Legislative and Congressional Reapportionment Office

Proposed districts, Fulton County’s board of commissioner. Credit: Ga. Legislative and Congressional Reapportionment Office

An added wrinkle is that the redistricting proposal comes as the U.S. Supreme Court is reviewing a legal challenge to the constitutionality of a portion of the 1965 Voting Rights Act that regulates the formation of districts. Georgia’s attorney general signed a brief urging the court to take up the case, from Shelby County, Ala.

The dividing line in the redistricting proposal is 10th Street. Tenth Street is at, or near, the historic – and often unremarked in public – dividing line between the county’s black and white communities. It’s located in Midtown and runs alongside Piedmont Park.

The proposal would eliminate one countywide district and use that seat to form a second seat in north Fulton County.

The redistricting plan was introduced in the state House, and it provides a racial breakdown of the voters in each proposed district. A point of interest is a figure known as VAP, for voting age population; its significance is to show the proportion of minority voters in each district.

Here’s the breakdown for the three north Fulton districts, which would be predominately white:

District 1: Black VAP – 10.7 percent; Hispanic VAP – 7.9 percent;

District 2: Black VAP – 15.4 percent; Hispanic VAP – 10.2 percent;

District 3: Black VAP – 12.7 percent; Hispanic VAP – 8.7 percent.

Here’s the breakdown for the three south Fulton districts, which would be predominately black:

District 4: Black VAP – 64.5 percent; Hispanic VAP – 4.4 percent;

District 5: Black VAP – 73.8 percent; Hispanic VAP – 5 percent;

District 6: Black VAP – 81.2 percent; Hispanic VAP – 5.6 percent.

House Bill 171 is to be discussed Thursday at a meeting of Fulton County’s legislative delegation at the Capitol. The sponsor is Rep. Lynne Riley (R-Johns Creek), who chairs Fulton’s delegation.

Current districts of Fulton County's board of commissioners. Credit: fultoncountyga.gov

Current districts of Fulton County’s board of commissioners. Credit: fultoncountyga.gov

Fulton County’s total population is 920,581, according to the breakdown.

The ideal population for each district should be 153,430, according to the breakdown. This proposal provides for each district to be within plus/minus 0.6 percent of the target, which translates to the biggest deviation being 962 residents, according to the breakdown.

The ratio of minority to majority voters is important because the U.S. Constitution intended to provide equality of representation for all Americans, according to a number of court rulings handed down in the 1960s, according to a guide from the Census Bureau.

The Alabama case pending in the Supreme Court challenges Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which applies to states that have a history of discriminating against minority voters. Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens joined six other attorneys general in asking the Supreme Court to review Section 5.

Section 5 requires approval from the federal Justice Department, or a special court, for all changes to district lines and other election matters. Olens contends the provision has outlived its usefulness and that its intention is protected by Section 2, which is not part of the review.

The wide range of current of Section 5 reviews pending before the Justice Department provides some interesting reading on the Justice Department’s website.

Pending reviews include an annexation in Coweta County; a referendum in Telfair County; an election in Barrow County; and an annexation in the Gwinnett County town of Berkeley Lake.

 

About David Pendered

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with nearly 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow. David was born in Pennsylvania, grew up in North Carolina and is married to a fifth-generation Atlantan.
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8 comments
Burroughston Broch
Burroughston Broch

 @jamesr1991 

" Last I looked the state-wide republicans can't vote in Fulton County Commission races."

 

I think you are very confused. I assure you that republicans can vote in the Fulton County Commission races. Do you think that democrats voted in the two incumbent republican commissioners in districts 3 and 4?

 

And, no matter how you spin it, President Obama carried Fulton County by 24,000 fewer votes in 2012 than in 2008.

jamesr1991
jamesr1991

SS Olens is wrong Section 5 has not outlived its usefulness. The "devilment" (a word from my granny) that is being heaped upon Fulton County is being done by the political minority Republicans. It's has all the makings of the apartness of apartheid. The GOP can't win county wide races because they are not the majority any longer. President Obama won Fulton by 118,000 votes! Those folks are being evil and vindictive. That's why there aren't county-wide elections on things like this. They aren't the majority in the county.

I live in S Fulton current district 7, under the new map I may end up in district 5 that stretches across the lower part of the perimeter into SE Atlanta to I-20 we have NOTHING in common with those cmmunities in Atlanta. We love tour quiet rural community our representative understands our concerns. This is against Section 5 of the VRA I and my neighbors are being discriminated against. The next thing we know these trolls will tell us we have to be annexed by Atlanta. Over my dead body!!!!

The Last Democrat in Georgia
The Last Democrat in Georgia

 @jamesr1991

 Republican voters may not make up a majority of likely or actual voters in Fulton County, but Republicans do make up a substantial majority of likely and actual voters statewide at present.

 

With an actual SUPERMAJORITY in the State Senate and a virtual supermajority in the State House of Representatives (in which the GOP is only one seat short of a supermajority), Republicans also completely dominate the Georgia Legislature, which is the governing body that holds the authority for drawing the lines of county commission districts.

 

Also at play is that there has been much more population growth in Republican-dominated North Fulton County then there has been in Democrat-dominated South Fulton County in recent decades.

 

Also adding to the equation is that the Republican-dominated north end of the county is represented by some of the most-powerful Republican lawmakers in the Georgia Legislature. 

The Last Democrat in Georgia
The Last Democrat in Georgia

 @jamesr1991

 Some of those very, very-powerful GOP lawmakers that represent Republican-dominated North Fulton County include: State Representative Jan Jones of Milton (Georgia House District 47), State Rep. Mike Dudgeon of Johns Creek (GA House Dist. 25), State Rep. Tom Rice of Norcross (GA House Dist. 95), State Rep. Wendell Willard of Sandy Springs (GA House Dist. 51), State Rep. Mike Jacobs of Brookhaven (GA House Dist. 80), State Rep. Joe Wilkinson of Atlanta (GA House Dist. 52), State Senator Brandon Beach of Alpharetta (Georgia Senate District 21), State Senator John Albers of Roswell (GA Senate Dist. 56), State Senator Fran Millar (GA Senate Dist. 40), State Senator Judson Hill of Marietta (GA Senate Dist. 32), State Senator Hunter Hill of Atlanta (GA Senate Dist. 6) who beat Veteran Democrat State Senator Doug Stoner of Smyrna in a key race that gave the GOP the supermajority it now enjoys in the State Senate and State Senate President Pro Tem David Shafer of Duluth (GA Senate Dist. 48).

 

The aforementioned lawmakers are both individually and collectively some of the most-powerful legislators in the entire state of Georgia.

If Georgia Democrats want to have more control over the county commission districting process in Fulton and other heavily-populated Metro Atlanta counties moving forward, they are going to have to find a way to be a heck of a lot more competitive in statewide politics, something which they most certainly are not at present as evidenced by their superminority status in the state legislature.

The Last Democrat in Georgia
The Last Democrat in Georgia

 @jamesr1991

Well collectively, statewide Republicans can't vote in Fulton County commission races.

 

But individually, the state lawmakers with Fulton County home addresses can and do vote in Fulton County commission races because of their residency in the county.

 

The preference of virtually all of those lawmakers with Fulton residency is for North Fulton County to be split-off from the rest of the county just below Buckhead so that the old Milton County can be reformed with a couple of very valuable (especially from a tax revenue standpoint) extra pieces in the form of Sandy Springs and Buckhead.

 

But since reforming Milton County is a heckuva lot more difficult legislatively as the Georgia Constitution caps the number of counties in the state at 159, North Fulton Republicans will likely elect to take control of Fulton County government with the help of their very, very powerful friends who control the state legislature.

 

I agree with your assertion that Democrats hold a very-substantial advantage in Fulton County races as the Democrats did hold a 118,000-vote advantage in the 2012 elections.

 

But statewide, it is the Republicans in the north end of the county who hold the very-substantial advantage in the legislative process as it is their party that effectively holds a 2-1 advantage in the Georgia Legislature.

 

After Republicans in the GOP-dominated north end of the county were blocked from forming their own cities to control their own zoning and public safety issues for decades when Democrats thoroughly dominated the statewide political scene, those Republicans are imposing their will through the overwhelming advantage they currently have in statewide politics because they can go over the heads of Democrat majorities in South and Central Fulton and impose their will statewide.

 

The only chance for Republicans' alleged desire to minimize Fulton County government to backfire will be when Democrats gain much more political pull at the statewide level that Republicans now thoroughly and completely dominate.

 

jamesr1991
jamesr1991 like.author.displayName 1 Like

 @The Last Democrat in Georgia  @jamesr1991  Last I looked the state-wide republicans can't vote in Fulton County Commission races. Democrats still hold a substantial advantage in Fulton County that is why these bills are being introduced. Their actions are vindictive they can not win a county-wide election. Remember 118,000 votes just several months ago is no fluke. Those that think Fulton cheated for President Obama is being conned by the Republican Entertainment Complex. Did you know they put a GOP chair in charge of the Fulton Registration and Election Department with the marching orders to do voter registration only in N Fulton. Tell me how did that work out for them? The desire to minimize Fulton County will back fire sooner than you think. 

Burroughston Broch
Burroughston Broch

 @jamesr1991 

You and I both know that Fulton County vote totals are not to be trusted, unless you haven't read a newspaper lately.

Why do you think democrats should be guaranteed control? The VRA doesn't recognize democrats as a protected minority.

And, by the way, President Obama carried Fulton County in 2012 with 24,000 fewer votes than in 2008. That doesn't point to a rising democratic trend in Fulton County.

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