Throughout the 2021 special session, grassroots organizations came together to advocate for a more transparent and fair redistricting process. In my last piece, I talked about how Senate Bill 5 EX is a blatant attempt to subvert local control in Gwinnett schools. Its sister bill – Senate Bill 6 EX – is nothing less than a desperate effort to gerrymander the Board of Commissioners after Democrats gained a majority in the last election for the first time in nearly thirty years.
This bill, filed during the 2021 special session, dilutes the power of Gwinnett voters so that right-wing politicians can implement their own political agendas to gain control as part of their voter suppression push that puts politicians ahead of their voters. This recent legislation has only become a push once Republicans have realized that voters are electing more Black and brown people into positions of local power.
The Redistricting and Reapportionment committee did a Special Session tour to get feedback from grassroots organizations and residents in their target areas. So I went.
Voters were able to submit feedback in Fulton County, Forsyth County, Dalton County and Athens County as part of the redistricting process. For example, multiple organizations sent letters to the committee that asked for their organizations to be able to give input on the redrawing of the maps.
One witness said, “Our communities are actively engaged in community redistricting education and our community is concerned about being included in public input in map drawing. This meeting was given in a short amount of time and many people were not selected to give their testimony. These meetings seem to have had to check a box instead of actually hearing us out.”
Other witnesses said they hope to ensure that communities of color are at the forefront of redistricting in Georgia. Organizations such as the Statewide Partnerships for Asian Americans, for example, are dedicated to ensuring Native Ameicans, Pacific Islanders and Asian Americans are represented in Forsyth. And Jack Gunber from Southern Poverty Law Center said there are, “over 100,000 Georgians with limited English-language proficiencies.”
Meanwhile, right-wing activists had a strong presence at both the Dalton and Athens hearings. During the redistricting hearings, they said, “We all want and deserve a conservative representation,” which ultimately resulted in new map drafts that will be voted on and either passed or denied during the current 2022 legislative session.
Though the special session concluded as of November 2021, the redistricting process is still underway. Hopefully, they will listen to the feedback from grassroots organizations in their regular session in 2022.
In the meantime, Georgians can continue to monitor these maps during session on the Georgia legislative website or through a local Redistricting Legislative Tracker courtesy of Gabriel Sanchez, Georgia Redistricting Alliance Fellow. And they should continue to make their voices heard and fight for their right to fair representation.