HomeNewsRedistricting Committee approves original map after months of meetings and public input

Redistricting Committee approves original map after months of meetings and public input

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Members of the Richmond County Ad Hoc Redistricting Committee have started the daunting task of creating a final redistricting map.

The committee, made up of four members each of the Augusta Commission, Richmond County Board of Education and local legislative delegation, met Nov. 22 to try to turn three locally-produced draft maps into a single proposal.

During a series of public meetings, the committee heard from multiple citizens who were displeased with a map produced by the Legislative and Congressional Reapportionment Office in Atlanta without local input.

MORE: Honing Richmond County’s new redistricting map

As the meeting began, Committee Chairman and District 7 Commissioner Sean Frantom recommended the committee use the state map, which he called the “minimal change map,” as a starting point.

“We understand not everyone is going to be happy. We understand that there’s got to be changes based on the increased population of District 3 and the decreased populations of Districts 1 and 2,” said Frantom.

District 3, represented by Commissioner Catherine Smith McKnight, grew by more than 21% and now has 31,316 residents. That is more than 5,000 residents over the ideal size.

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It includes parts of the Summerville and Forest Hills neighborhoods.

Those residents spoke at several of the public meetings, imploring the committee to keep them in District 3 and reunite sections that were moved to other districts in past redistricting.

Ultimately, the nine committee members in attendance voted unanimously to go back to the state-produced map. Representative Henry “Wayne” Howard, Mark Newton and Brian Prince were not in attendance.

From there, the committee worked with Elections Director Lynn Bailey to try to move precincts among districts to accommodate some of the wishes they heard during the four public meetings. Each move created the need to make another move — sometimes multiple moves — to try to keep the county’s eight districts close to the 25,825 that represents an ideal size district. The 2020 census shows Richmond County population grew by 3% to 206,607 residents.

After more than 30 minutes of shuffling precincts back and forth, District 4 Commission Alvin Mason made a motion the committee accept the state-produced map as is.

“We have a map here,” he began. “It still has to go up; it still has to be approved locally and by the state. Who knows, maybe a court case. We got a long way to go here. But this is a point that has been done.”

MORE: Three Drafted Redistricting Maps for Richmond County Revealed

“I respectfully disagree,” said Board of Education District 8 Trustee Jimmy Atkins. “If that’s what we’re going to do, we’ve wasted a lot of people’s time.”

“We had four public meetings to ask our constituents to come share with us what their concerns were,” said Board of Education District 10 Trustee Helen Minchew. “So, what’s the point of all that?”

When the vote was called, Mason’s motion to use the draft map produced by the state passed on a six-to-three vote. Committee members Atkins, Minchew and Frantom voted against using that map.

The committee’s next meeting is Nov. 29 in the commission chambers at the Municipal Building.

The committee has a self-imposed deadline of Dec. 15 to create a locally-accepted map that must then be approved by the Georgia General Assembly.

All the plans can be reviewed here.

Videos of all the committee meetings and public hearing are also available.

Dana Lynn McIntyre is a Staff Reporter with The Augusta Press. You can reach her at [email protected] 

2 COMMENTS

  1. It would be so refreshing to have Augusta politicians come out and say. “We are not going to waste your time and ours soliciting public input, only to ignore it when we make our predetermined decision.” Hopefully the GA legislature will reject the proposed map.

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