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AJC Watchdog: Redistricting reform has uphill climb in Georgia

A Democratic state senator has a plan to reform the way Georgia draws its political boundaries that would take the job away from politicians and put it in the hands of a citizen-led commission.

But Senate Resolution 6 is going nowhere this year, despite hundreds of supporters who turned out on short notice to support it.

“We firmly believe that picking elected officials should be in the hands of citizens,” said Kelli Persons with the Georgia chapter of the League of Women Voters, which supports the bill. “We believe that the citizens should be the ones with the pens drawing the maps.”

Sen. Elena Parent, D-Atlanta, is the bill’s primary sponsor. She said the idea is to remove redistricting from the political process in hopes of getting more balanced districts and more competitive elections.

“Partisan political bodies are not good at drawing fair districts that represent the people,” she said. “There’s too much pressure to maximize partisan advantage.”

The resolution requires a statewide vote to amend the Georgia Constitution, but Republicans — who control both chambers of the General Assembly and the governor’s office — have not shown much appetite for the reforms.

Georgia is among the worst in the nation in delivering competitive elections to voters. The vast majority of state legislative districts failed to produce candidates from both major parties for the November election. Reformers say that’s because politicians slice the districts in such a way as to protect incumbents and discourage challengers and that citizens would be less inclined to do the same.

Read more about the movement to reform Georgia’s redistricting procedures in this week’s AJC Watchdog column here.

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