Friday, February 13, 2004

Court decision throws districts up in the air


“It’s been a long hard fight.”

With those words, Rep. Lynn Westmoreland (R-Sharpsburg) assessed a district court’s ruling Tuesday that effectively threw out the state’s legislative districts drawn in 2001 and threw this year’s General Assembly session into chaos.

In their ruling, the three-judge panel said the new maps violate the one person, one vote principal. The judges also directed the Legislature to redraw the maps by March 1, which will then be used in the July primary and November general election.

“I’ve been around this state for three years showing different maps. It’s been a lot of hard work,” he said.

The ruling also said the Democrats violated the Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause by “partisan gerrymandering and racial gerrymandering.” The judges also said the maps were above the standard population deviation of five percent. The justices said the house plan had a total population deviation plan of 9.98 percent.

Westmoreland said the redistricting should dramatically affect the look of Fayette and Coweta’s legislative group.

“There will be no multi-member districts, which will cut the delegation down by four immediately,” he said.

And no on will feel the impact greater than the four representatives who share House District 48, one of 23 mulit-seat districts in the state thrown out by the federal judges.

While about 46 percent of Fayette falls within the 48th, the county’s portion only makes up about 25 percent of the total of the entire district, which mostly covers South Fulton including College Park and East Point, as well as portions of southwest Atlanta. The district is 64 percent black, and all four legislators are black.

Rep. Virgil Fludd is the only Fayette resident who serves on the 48th, which also includes Sharon Beasley-Teague, Joe Heckstall and Bob Holmes. He’s also the only one of the four who has shown much interest in Fayette County affairs.

It is unclear how the district might be redrawn to eliminate the four representatives, but Fludd has made an effort in his two years in office to connect with the community in which he lives.

“Fayette County is unique in a lot of different ways,” said Fludd recently. “You have a convergeance of values, ideas. There are more people who agree than disagree.”

Westmoreland, a Republican from Sharpsburg, already has maps ready to go, but conceded it’s probably going to be a difficult struggle to get those passed.

“Last time, it took us two months to get maps passed, and that’s when both chambers were controlled by Democrats,” Westmoreland said.

The state’s Democrats have not decided whether to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court.


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