Democrats call on governor to veto redistricting bill

A state lawmaker along with local Democrats in Gwinnett County are calling on Gov. Nathan Deal to veto a redistricting bill they say dilutes black voting strength.

While House Bill 566 includes changes to 17 House districts, Gwinnett Democratic Party Chair Jim Shealey says district 105 caught his attention.  It includes portions of Grayson, Lawrenceville, Loganville, and Dacula.

“It takes probably the most competitive district in Gwinnett County and now it’s a non-competitor,” he said during a news conference at the State Capitol.

Sen. Vincent Fort says the bill passed on Day 39 with little fanfare.

“It makes it generally a district where a Republican could win but where African-Americans would not be able to vote for a candidate of their choice,” he says.

Stephen Day voiced his concerns as a Gwinnett County citizen but is also vice-chair of Gwinnett’s Elections Board.  He says it reduces the black voting population in the district by more than 6 percent.

“It may not seem like a large amount to those that aren’t used to redistricting… but it’s a very sizable number when it comes to affecting the outcome of an election,” he says.

Renita Hamilton she know that first-hand.  She has already lost twice to a Republican in the district but only by a few hundred votes.

“When the lines are redrawn to virtually cancel out my ability or any other woman’s ability to run for office, it hurts,” she says.

Fort says not only is racial gerrymandering a factor in the Gwinnett district, but in Districts 59 and 60 in the city of Atlanta and District 111 in Henry County as well.

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Randy Nix, chairs the House Reapportionment Committee.  In a statement to WSB’s Sandra Parrish, he says lawmakers had the opportunity to come to him with any changes they wanted to make to their districts.

He says those changes had to ensure compliance with all election-related rules and regulations. In total, there 11 Republicans and 6 Democrats involved. The bill passed the House on a vote of 168-0.

If signed by the governor, the district changes will be in effect for the 2016 elections.





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