Summerville residents threaten lawsuit over local redistricting

Published: Nov. 29, 2021 at 7:35 PM EST
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - New district lines drawn by the state have the stamp of approval from Augusta’s redistricting committee.

We’re reaching the end of months of meetings inviting the public to share their opinion about the map. But people in one Augusta neighborhood are wondering what it’s all for if leaders don’t listen.

After each census, lines for the districts must be redrawn to ensure each has the same population so all residents have equal representation on the Augusta Commission and Richmond County Board of Education.

“It’s all about their representation and who they vote for,” said Sean Frantom, Augusta commissioner and chairman of the local redistricting committee.

Under good redistricting principles, neighborhoods and communities of shared interest shouldn’t be split into separate districts. But it does happen because ensuring equal population is the prime requirement.

After several meetings and public hearings, the panel approved a “minimal change draft.” But some neighborhoods feel the change is anything but minimal.

“I think the concerns were heard they just were not acted on,” said David Dunagan of the Summerville Neighborhood Association.

The association has expressed concerns from the start.

Augusta District 3 split
Augusta District 3 split(WRDW)

The map would split parts of the Summerville and Forest Hills neighborhoods, taking them out of District 3 into District 2. The state has final approval of the map and can tweak it, too.

But Dunagan feels the committee took the easy way out.

“Instead of listening to the citizens of Augusta-Richmond County, the committee has basically punted to Atlanta and said, ‘Just draw the maps for us,’ and I’m against that,” he said.

On Friday, the association sent a letter to the committee asking it to reconvene.

“I’m willing to file a lawsuit to let the courts decide which way we’re gonna go. It’s not what I want to do but I do not want Atlanta drawing our districts,” said Dunagan.

“Not surprising with the balance of how polarizing this topic was,” said Frantom.

Frantom voted against the map, even though he’d be willing to look at the maps again.

“I don’t think at this time that the committee wants to get back together based on how the vote went,” he said.

The process continues, but new lines and new representation is a likely change for Summerville.

It’s not just Summerville. People in east, west, and south Augusta all expressed concerns about neighborhoods being split unfairly.

The Summerville Neighborhood Association wants the committee to reconvene sooner than later. But Frantom says the map will likely go for Augusta-Richmond County Commission and Richmond County Board of Education approval next week.

After that, the last step is state approval.

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