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Tug-of-war flares for Richmond County redistricting

A view of Augusta from across the Savannah River.
A view of Augusta from across the Savannah River.(WRDW)
Published: Feb. 14, 2022 at 11:30 AM EST
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ATLANTA - Republican efforts to override Democrats’ wishes on redistricting for Richmond County and elsewhere are likely to keep inflaming tensions in Georgia’s General Assembly.

Republicans are pushing aside local maps drawn by Democrats in Cobb, Gwinnett, Augusta-Richmond and Athens-Clarke counties.

But Democrats like state Sen. Harold Jones II and state Rep. Henry “Wayne” Howard, both of Augusta, are fighting back.

“We cannot allow the same power grabs that have occurred in Gwinnett and Cobb County to reach Augusta,” Howard said Monday in a statement. “Local redistricting should be handled by those who know Augusta-Richmond County best, not the majority caucus that hails from across our state.”

The Democratic members of the Augusta-Richmond County legislative delegation plan a news conference at 3:30 p.m. Monday at the state Capitol.

The lawmakers will discuss House Bill 1120 and Senate Bill 457, which would revise the boundary lines for the Augusta-Richmond County Board of Commissioners and Board of Education districts.

Jones is calling for a public hearing on the bills, which have been assigned to the House Governmental Affairs Committee.

“After months of hard work, due diligence, and citizen input, the maps presented from the Richmond County Commission and Richmond County Board of Education to the state and local delegation are not being considered,” Jones said last week in a statement. “As such, the citizens of Richmond County are requesting their voice be heard by allowing a hearing.”

From left: State Sen. Harold Jones and Rep. Wayne Howard, Augusta Democrats
From left: State Sen. Harold Jones and Rep. Wayne Howard, Augusta Democrats(Gray)

Every 10 years, districts for elective office must be redrawn across the state from the city to congressional level to ensure that each district has the same population as other districts of its type.

The maps are often proposed at the local level, and officials in Richmond County sent their proposed maps to Atlanta weeks ago, where lawmakers are free to redraw them.

And that’s what’s happening in an effort by GOP lawmakers.

Democrats say the Republicans are violating federal law by reducing the influence of minority voters.

But the Republicans say they’re reacting to local maps that disenfranchise members of their own party, not violating the Voting Rights Act.

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