Reapportionment and Redistricting are two terms that are most often talked about after any census is conducted and are often used interchangeably but really refer to two separate and distinct acts. The first Federal Population Census was taken in 1790, and a census has been taken every ten years since with 2020 being our most recent. One of the outcomes from any census is to determine the number of elected officials we send to Washington, DC to represent us at the federal level as well as ensuring equal representation of citizens across all modes of government. This process influences every elected position from local governing boards all the way to the national level. It stands as a vitally important process to our community, our state, and our nation.
While this process has yet to commence, I can give some insight to what changes we anticipate. A state can gain seats in the House if its population grows — or lose seats if its population decreases — relative to populations in other states. The U.S. House of Representatives has been capped at 435 seats since the Apportionment Act of 1911. Reapportionment is the term used to express the change of elected officials in Congress. Each state gets two Senators, but the number of House of Representative members are directly impacted by relative population as required under Article I, Section 2, of the U.S. Constitution. Even though the population of Georgia has grown by around a million people in the last ten years there was not enough of an increase to warrant an additional seat in the House as relative to the rest of the nation. We remain at two Senators and 14 members of the House. Although we can be certain there will be modifications to at least some of the existing districts we do not know what nor where those changes will be.
What we do know is U.S. House seats have increased in size by 73,161 people and will now represent a total of 765,136 constituents. State Senate districts increased by 18,290 people for a total of 191,284 constituents per district. Each State House district has also grown by 5,691 people to 59,511 constituents. Per Georgia’s Constitution there shall be “No less than 180 Representatives and no more than 56 Senators”. With those constraints in mind we will, as a body, convene a Special Session that is called by the Governor to draw Georgia’s updated districts that are roughly equal in population.
Often I am asked why we don’t just make big squares across the state that have the population designated for a particular district. There are considerations other than just population that we will have to account for. Districts must comply with the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Additionally, keeping local governing authorities whole is also a consideration. Communities of interest are also a factor that goes into creating districts. We often try to avoid major changes in current elected officials. The people across the state have elected the person they feel is best at representing their interest in Atlanta and that is a factor we take into consideration.
These changes to representation are not confined to the federal or state level, There will also potentially be modifications in local school boards, city councils, and county commission seats to ensure equal representation at all levels. This process will ensure equitable representation for many years to come — I’m looking forward to participating.
Over the past few months we have traveled the state and held 11 different listening sessions. These were truly listening sessions where people from Dalton to Brunswick and multiple other venues in between came forward to voice their desires about the upcoming process. Those sessions were live streamed so even those that could not attend in person were able to participate. It will be an arduous task over the next few months as it should be. The results of our efforts will serve Georgia for the next ten years.