Atlanta’s newly elected City Council and Board of Education will soon face redistricting
By John Ruch
As Atlanta voters head to the runoff election polls today, a little-noticed fact is that many of them soon will no longer be represented by some officials they just elected. That’s because the long-delayed City Council and Board of Education (BOE) redistrictings are coming soon.
Highly controversial redrawing of Georgia’s Congressional and General Assembly districts has dominated the news in a process triggered by fresh U.S. Census data under the requirement that all districts have roughly equal populations. But municipal redistricting is largely flying under the radar even though the same requirement applies to cities.
Blaming the COVID-19 pandemic for delays, the Census released its once-a-decade demographic stats later than usual, which also delayed redistricting around the nation. Atlanta’s did not happen before the elections, meaning that candidates are winning in districts that are already outdated. One of the first orders of business for the new City Council district members will be redrawing their own territories. Redistricting does not affect citywide positions like the mayor and at-large council and BOE seats.
And the City still has no schedule for the redistricting process.
Atlanta Municipal Clerk Foris Webb III said his office, along with the City’s legal and planning departments, will conduct the redistricting under the direction of the City Council.
“Local-level Census data required for redistricting was released extremely late and during the City of Atlanta municipal election, thus I can’t speculate on a[n] anticipated schedule,” Webb said in an email.
The current City Council apparently hasn’t talked about it, either. Asked about any such scheduling discussion, City Councilmember Matt Westmoreland, who holds the citywide Post 2 seat, said, “Nope. Sometime in the first half of 2022, I assume.”
The BOE is dependent on the City Council’s process. That’s because each BOE district, by charter, is drawn to match a pair of City Council districts.
Many other cities are in the same boat as Atlanta. The north metro City of Brookhaven got a jump on the process by redrawing its districts in May, in advance of its municipal elections, based on its own Census estimates. Brookhaven leaders knew they had a particular balance problem with City Council districts because the City had annexed large areas in recent years. But they ran the risk of actual Census data being different from the estimates.
See below for maps of the current districts of the Atlanta City Council at the top and BOE beneath.
Maps by Maggie Lee.