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.

 

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 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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