Democratic State Lawmakers leaders in Cobb and Gwinnett counties are fighting against new county commission maps that have been drawn up by Republican legislators. 

Republicans have said these new maps are fair, just and will not disenfranchise their voters. 

State Representative Ed Setzler, R-Ackworth, speaks to reporters regarding Cobb County’s redistricting debate outside of the House Chambers inside the Georgia State Capitol on Thursday, February 3, 2022. (Photo: Itoro N. Umontuen/The Atlanta Voice)

In Cobb, State Rep. Ed Setzler, R-Acworth, says the local process of redrawing the maps is fair because the county commissioners will stay in power. But, District 2 Commissioner Jerica Richardson was drawn out of her seat, according to the Republican map and she would have to move to run again for the same post. 

“But if one were to predict that they’re a predictor of those kinds of things, you can look at Chairman Carson’s map and say, ‘You know what, this is going to allow the Democratic Party to stay in in in three two controls of the county commission,’ something that was was fought against, there’s no effort to create any kind of distorted lines to try to change that,” Setzler said. 

The leading Democrat, Erick Allen, D-Smyrna, says that very notion is the reason why Republicans are fighting hard to force the new maps through the legislature.

“If those changes, those minimal changes make that much of a difference in the balance of power,” Allen said. “It just shows how much of a shift we’ve had in Cobb County over the last 10 years. [The new maps have] seven and nine precinct changes from maps that Ed Setzler championed 10 years ago.”

State Representative Erick Allen, D-Smyrna, speaks to reporters regarding Cobb County’s redistricting fight outside of the House Chambers inside the State Capitol on Thursday, February 3, 2022. (Photo: Itoro N. Umontuen/The Atlanta Voice)

In the 2020 Election, three Black women were elected to the board, which flipped the balance of power in a Republican stronghold. 

Democrats have labeled the Republican maps as ‘Anti-Democratic.’

“Why are we dropping things before coming to a delegation meeting,” said State Rep. Erica Thomas, D-Mableton. “Or even asking one of us what do you think about this map? And guess what you may feel like you have the majority and we can’t say anything, but at least give us a chance to show our people these maps before they’re dropped in.”

In 2010, the General Assembly approved a Cobb County commissioners map but it was thrown out by the courts. A court-approved map was instituted in its place. 

“We talk about balance of power and that’s because that’s what’s on their mind,” Allen added. “What’s front of mind is what people say we have tried to have a fair, open, transparent process; they’re trying to gain or retain or take over power. And this should not be about power, should not be about red and blue, should be about Cobb County voters and letting their voices be heard.”

State Rep Sam Park speaks to reporters after speaking out against Hosue Bill 873 at the South Steps inside the Georgia State Capitol on Thursday, February 4, 2022. (Photo: Itoro N. Umontuen/The Atlanta Voice)

A few hours later, the battle for Gwinnett County’s commission maps took center stage inside the House Chambers. Currently, the commission is made up of five Democrats, each claiming the process to redraw lines was not done fairly. But Republicans believe their constituents are being underrepresented.

House Bill 873 passed along party lines.

According to the State Rep. Bonnie Rich, R-Suwanee, submitted a map Monday that was approved by the other Republican members of the Gwinnett delegation, as well as their constituents. 

“We have urban-suburban communities, we have more urban communities and they have different interests and different needs legislatively,” Rich said. “And that is why it is best that we keep those communities of interest together with our older aging infrastructure, and our older parts of our county need attention and they have different legislative needs and policy needs then do the more newly developed areas.”

Once a county with a predominantly white population, Gwinnett County has grown increasingly diverse and has become the most ethnically diverse county in the Southeastern United States. According to the 2020 census, 30% of Gwinnett County’s residents are Black, 13% are Asian American Pacific Islander and 22% are of Hispanic or Latinx origin. Moreover, Gwinnett County is composed of approximately 60% Democrats and 40% Republicans, according to the U.S. Census Data. 

Finally, all five of the county commissioners are Democrats.

“Also, in keeping with Gwinnett’s diverse population, all four districts are majority nonwhite,” Rich said. “There is zero partisan gerrymandering reflected in this proposal, which seeks to comply with all aspects of the laws of redistricting.”

However, Rich’s map would create a majority-White district in northern Gwinnett county, which encompasses Buford and Suwanee. The Republican-backed map would divide Lawrenceville into three districts and Norcross into two districts. 

State Representative Jasmine Clark, D-Lilburn speaks against House Bill 873 from the House Chamber inside the Georgia State Capitol on Thursday, February 3, 2022. House Bill 873 would re-draw commissioner’s districts in Gwinnett County. (Photo: Itoro N. Umontuen/The Atlanta Voice)

Every Gwinnett Democrat has said the process with drawing up the new Gwinnett redistricting map is rife with “foolishness, lawlessness and chaos,” according to State Rep. Beth Moore, D-Peacthree Corners. 

Typically, these kinds of redistricting bills must travel through the local delegation and only will advance to the House floor without their approval, but Democrats said Republicans circumvented those procedures. 

“This map shows partisan gerrymandering … but also racial gerrymandering,” State Rep. Jasmine Clark said, D-Lilburn. “I am very concerned that the people of Gwinnett are going to deal with this report, as we’ve made sure that the map we presented to people is not in violation of Section Two of the Voting Rights Act.”

Itoro Umontuen currently serves as Managing Editor of The Atlanta Voice. Upon his arrival to the historic publication, he served as their Director of Photography. As a mixed-media journalist, Umontuen...