Georgia Dems raise 'serious questions' about GOP redistricting plans

Georgia Democrats are crying foul over what they perceive as a Republican takeover of the redistricting process.

State GOP lawmakers on Thursday shifted responsibility for the details of redistricting from the University of Georgia's Carl Vinson Institute of Government, which is nonpartisan, to a Legislative and Congressional Reapportionment Office that will be advised by a Republican lawyer.

Anne W. Lewis, a partner in the firm Strickland Brockington Lewis, will advise the legislative office, according to The Associated Press. Lewis currently serves as general counsel to the Georgia Republican Party.

Democrats from both chambers of the state legislature questioned the move.

"That they did not include Democrats in this decision raises some serious questions about transparency and accountability," state House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams (D) told the AP.

Georgia Senate Democratic Leader Robert Brown scoffed at the notion of a nonpartisan office advised by a GOP lawyer.

"It's obviously not nonpartisan," said Brown. "I don't know what this is. I've heard rumor after rumor about redistricting. We're not a part of this process."

Georgia gained a House seat from reapportionment resulting from the 2010 Census.


Redistricting 'newbies' may complicate process

An inexperienced crop of public officials are managing the intricate congressional redistricting process, which could open the door to more court challenges. 

The Census Bureau has already released the reapportionment numbers for House seats and states are beginning the process of redrawing their congressional boundaries.

{mosads}But the majority of officials tasked with making those calls are new to the process, according to Kimball Brace, president of Election Data Services, a bipartisan firm that specializes in Census data and redistricting for state and local governments. 

Brace noted that only half the participants at the National Conference of State Legislatures’ redistricting seminar over the weekend at National Harbor, Md. had been through the process before.

"In a lot of states, you have a lot of newbies who are managing the process," Brace said at a redistricting briefing Tuesday. "You'll have people having to learn the hard way.

"They're so new they may not realize how far behind they are."

A scramble to complete the process ahead of the 2012 elections could result in congressional districts hastily drawn to favor one party or another, which inevitably leads to court challenges.

Only a handful of states actually have permanent redistricting committees. "The state of Texas has probably the most elaborate process that there is," said Brace. "They keep their operation in place."

New York also maintains some form of a standing redistricting commission, he said. "That is not the case in the vast majority of states."

Mark Braden, a Washington attorney who specializes in redistricting litigation, said that brutal court battles of the past have pushed many experienced officials out of the process.

"It's the damn lawyers," he said. Those who left, "were sick of the process."