Residents of Richmond County District 3 vow to fight against the redistricting map drawn by state Senators Max Burns (R-District 23) and Lee Anderson (R-District 24).
Nearly two dozen residents of the Elderberry subdivision and surrounding neighborhoods gathered outside the entrances to Elderberry and Breckenridge.
Led by James Germany of the Elderberry Subdivision Property Owners Association, the group expressed frustration and anger over the Burns/Anderson map, which has been passed by the Georgia Senate and House and is awaiting Gov. Brian Kemp’s signature.
“I’m here today because I’m angry. I’m angry because I’m being disrespected. I’m angry because my voice and wishes have fallen on deaf ears. I’m angry because those that have traditionally and historically been proven to do the wrong thing continue to do so,” said Germany.
The Richmond County Ad Hoc Redistricting Committee worked for months, including a series of public meetings, to create a redistricting map for the county. The districts are for both the Augusta Commission and the Richmond County School Trustees.
In the end, both the commission and school board voted to use a draft map that was drawn by the Legislative and Congressional Reapportionment Office in Atlanta without local input. The vote in both bodies was 6-to-4 and broke along racial lines. The map was sent to Atlanta for legislative approval.
“It is my unofficial opinion that Republican Senator Max Burns, balled it up and threw it in the trash can, simply ignoring and disrespecting the wishes and concerns of the citizens of Augusta-Richmond County. There was no townhall meetings. No citizen had opportunity to look at the matter. The sole purpose of that map was to protect some of you in Lake Forest and dilute the Black vote in District 3 by eliminating precinct 309 which is a majority Black precinct in a strong voting bloc,” charged Germany.
The 2020 census shows Richmond County population grew by 3% to 206,607 residents. That means the ideal, balanced district size is 25,825. However, District 3, represented by Catherine McKnight, grew by more than 21% and now has 31,316 residents.
McKnight came to the news conference, and the crowd made it clear her presence was unwanted.
“District 309 is what got Miss McKnight elected. We call, we did everything we could to only be stabbed in the back by Miss McKnight,” said Monique Braswell. “At this time, I am calling for a recall on Commissioner McKnight. I’m calling for a recall. It takes on 100 signatures to get started and know that I’ve gotten started already.”
McKnight defended herself.
“I’m very disappointed that you couldn’t come to me and call me because we’ve talked so often. Don’t ask me how I’m doing because I’m not doing well,” said McKnight. “I don’t support any of these maps that have been drawn. And I tell you why. I’ve said it since the get-go is because any precinct out of the 10 precincts in District Three being pulled from any map, I’m not supporting the map. If a map was here today, I wouldn’t support it. I support precinct 309. I don’t approve 309 being moved out.”
District 3 includes the Summerville neighborhood, which would have been split into three different commission districts under the map approved locally. Representatives of the Summerville Neighborhood Association told both the commission and board of education there will be a lawsuit if the draft map is approved at the state level.
However, David Dunagan, chairman of the Summerville Neighborhood Association’s Redistricting Committee, says he can support the Burns/Anderson map.
“I do support this map. However, like other districts, it does force us to lose some of our constituents by taking out certain sections of the neighborhood and putting them into two different districts,” he said.
Germany said they are planning their response should the governor sign the Burns/Anderson map.
“It could be done today, maybe happening right now? I don’t know. But I think it’s going to probably happen sometime this week. Once that done, we are already strategizing, plan already in place, already in the starting blocks ready to go,” he said.