Originally created 12/18/00

New Ga. House seats 121800 - The Augusta Chronicle



As we analyzed in two editorials yesterday, Georgia and South Carolina state lawmakers are looking toward the 2001 reapportionment of their legislative districts. Today we focus on the redistricting process for the U.S. House of Representatives.

A U.S. House district must contain at least 600,000 voters. So several Peach State districts are out of kilter.

Final state-by-state results of the 2000 census to be used in federal reapportionment must be on President Bill Clinton's desk by Dec. 31. (The official state and local data won't be released until April.) But annual numbers from the Census Bureau over the past few years reveal that several Northern states will lose House members while several Southern and Sunbelt states will be the beneficiaries.

Jim Holmes, an Atlanta Census Bureau official, predicts Georgia's population is now about 7.8 million - an increase of 1 million since 1990. So the conventional wisdom is that two new congressional districts will be added to the state's 11 House seats.

State Republican Chairman Chuck Clay says the GOP is a shoo-in to win the 12th seat, a district that has to be drawn by the General Assembly out of the booming, affluent suburbs north of Atlanta.

But what about the 13th seat? That could be drawn favorably for a Democrat, and could contain counties in the Central Savannah River Area. Here's one scenario: The sprawling district of Rep. Charlie Norwood, R-Ga., could basically be trimmed back to a core area around Wilkes, McDuffie, Lincoln, Columbia and Richmond counties. Most other counties could be taken from Norwood's present district and, along with turf containing minority voters taken from Reps. Jack Kingston and Saxby Chambless, R-Ga., a new seat could be created.

But that's just one of many scenarios as Democrats click away on their computers to make sure they counter the GOP's Atlanta pickup with a new seat of their own.