2010 census findings to affect voting districts

Areas of Richmond County could lose representation

The 2010 census showed Richmond County's population barely changed in 10 years, but that doesn't mean its voting districts will stay the same.

Places that lagged behind the state's 18.3 percent growth rate -- Richmond County grew only 0.4 percent -- also fell behind in the population needed for a state Senate or House seat. That means areas, including Richmond County's urban center, could lose some representation.

"Those places that have not grown as fast will have to add geographic area to their districts," said state Rep. Roger Lane, the chairman of the House Legislative and Congressional Reapportionment committee, which will oversee redrawing of districts in Georgia.

Augusta's urban voting districts in particular have lost population, and expanding them into outlying suburbs could affect their racial makeup.

Census figures show Georgia's population was 9,687,653 in 2010. That means a state Senate district should now contain, on average, about 173,000 people and a House district about 54,000.

Richmond County's voting districts are all below those averages. In the urban core, three House districts, 119, 121 and 122, and Senate District 22 lagged by as much as 14 percent to 25 percent. Those House districts are on Augusta's north and east sides and are represented by Barbara Sims, Wayne Howard and Earnest Smith. The Senate district, covering the urban part of the county, is represented by Hardie Davis.

The General Assembly will meet in a special session this summer to approve new voting districts, Lane said. Before that, public hearings will be held on proposed redistricting.

The goal for redistricting, starting out, is to have each district contain about the same population, Lane said. Population can vary as much as 5 percent if there's a justifiable reason.

However, legislators must avoid losing a black voting district when they redraw lines, to comply with the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965, Lane said. That can be difficult in Georgia's majority-black inner cities, where population has declined and where surrounding suburbs are white.

"If you go outside the city now and grab a section of the suburbs, you're not necessarily going to grab a minority population," Lane said.

In the suburbs of Columbia County, House districts have 13 percent and 19 percent more population than an average seat should have. Demographically they are white, by three to one. By contrast, four out of five of Richmond County's House districts are majority black.

Charles Bullock, a political science professor at the University of Georgia, said redistricting could try to follow any black population that's moved into the suburbs.

"If the population simply isn't there, you can't create people, though," he said.

Theoretically, three black districts could be consolidated into two black districts or a majority-black district could become a majority-white district, Bullock said, but he's never seen that happen in Georgia.

By the numbers

RICHMOND COUNTY

SENATE DISTRICT/REP.POPULATIONChange*WhitesBlacks
22/Hardie Davis138,542-19.92%31.92%62.86%
23/Jesse Stone153,242-11.42%53.10%41.90%
HOUSE DISTRICT/REP.POPULATIONChangeWhitesBlacks
119/Barbara Sims46,117-14.31%69.28%22.71%
120/Quincy Murphy49,471-8.08%29.89%63.58%
121/Wayne Howard39,901-25.86%28.98%67.05%
122/Earnest Smith45,723-15.04%38.43%56.22%
123/Gloria Frazier49,250-8.49%42.21%51.68%

COLUMBIA COUNTY

SENATE DISTRICT/REP.POPULATIONChangeWhitesBlacks
24/Bill Jackson182,3345.40%71.48%21.50%
HOUSE DISTRICT/REP.POPULATIONChangeWhitesBlacks
117/Lee Anderson64,22419.33%72.73%20.35%
118/Ben Harbin60,82413.01%78.29%12.64%

* Population change from 2000-10

Source: U.S. Census Bureau

2010 numbers

Georgia pop. 9,687,653

Senate seats 56

Avg. Senate

district population 172,994

House seats 180

Avg. House

district population 53,820

Source: U.S. Census Bureau

MORE ON THE CENSUS

House, Senate district populations, with racial breakdowns, for Richmond, Columbia counties/10A

SC Census data

Local-level census data for South Carolina will be released next week, among the last batch before the April 1 deadline set by law.

The Census Bureau must furnish the data by April 1 of the year following the census to allow for redistricting, the 10-year redrawing of political districts from which state and federal lawmakers are elected. With this last release of redistricting data, the Census Bureau will fulfill its statutory obligation, according to information from the bureau.

Next week's anticipated load will include summaries of population totals, data on race, Hispanic origin and voting age for census blocks, tracts, voting districts, cities, counties and school districts.

South Carolina is not alone in approaching the deadline.

Other states and territories that will also be released next week include: Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, West Virginia, District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.

-- Sarita Chourey, Morris News Service

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