It looks like a new state Senate map will be the first order of business for the General Assembly special redistricting session that convened Wednesday.
The Georgia Senate Reapportionment and Redistricting Committee will hear testimony Thursday on a proposed map Senate Republican leaders released late Tuesday.
The committee could vote on new Senate district boundaries as early as Friday, Sen. John Kennedy, R-Macon, the panel’s chairman, said during a brief committee meeting Wednesday.
Republicans currently hold 34 of the Senate’s 56 seats, to 22 for Democrats.
Under the proposed map, the Democrats could gain up to three seats, reflecting the growth of Georgia’s minority populations, voters who historically have supported Democratic candidates.
During a series of public hearings held across the state during the summer, civil rights and voting rights advocates urged majority Republicans to take minority growth into account when drawing new legislative and congressional district maps.
“The draft map … has been diligently crafted to represent our growing state,” said GOP Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan, the Senate’s presiding officer. “As we continue to prioritize transparency and fairness throughout the redistricting process, listening to concerns expressed by members and the communities they represent will remain a top priority.”
The Republicans’ task of creating “minority opportunity” districts in the new Senate map was made easier when two GOP incumbents opted to run for statewide office rather than seek reelection.
The new map moves the 7th Senate District now served by Sen. Tyler Harper, R-Ocilla, from rural South Georgia – where counties are losing population – to Gwinnett County, increasing the number of Senate districts in that rapidly growing area of the state. Harper is running for agriculture commissioner.
Likewise, the 14th Senate District seat now occupied by Sen. Bruce Thompson, R-White, would be relocated to fast-growing North Fulton County. Thompson is running for commissioner of labor.
Democrats would have a shot at capturing both seats, based on the 7th District’s white voting-age population of only 35% and the 14th District’s minority voting-age population of just more than 40%. Districts where Black, Hispanic and Asian American voters make up more than 40% of the population are generally considered competitive for Democrats.
Another potential Democratic pickup can be found in Gwinnett County’s 45th Senate district, which has a minority voting-age population of 42.47%.
At Wednesday’s committee meeting, Senate Minority Leader Gloria Butler, D-Stone Mountain, urged majority Republicans to adopt maps based on concerns Georgia citizens expressed during the public hearings.
“They asked for fair maps and transparency,” Butler said. “I hope we’re really listening and will act according to their requests.”
Kennedy said members of the public provided “a lot of good valuable input” during the hearings and pledged the committee would consider that feedback.
After the committee completes its work on the Senate map, it will turn to the proposed congressional map Senate Republicans released last month.