A federal court ruling Tuesday overturning Georgia's legislative districts has the potential to revamp Columbia County's representation to the state Senate.
"It'll have a lot of impact on my district and Sen. (Don) Cheeks' district, I imagine," said Sen. Joey Brush, R-Martinez, whose current 24th District snakes through 12 counties. "You can look at my district and see something wasn't kosher about the way the process worked."
The three-judge panel ruled that Georgia's redistricting plans for the House and Senate violated the one-person, one-vote principle and gave the legislature until March 1 to draw new maps or face having the court do it.
Columbia County could end up with a larger portion represented by Cheeks, R-Augusta, who now covers only one precinct in the county in Harlem.
The state Senate's 23rd District includes just one precinct in Harlem, but that's enough to put Cheeks in Columbia County's legislative delegation.
Cheeks often has complained that the district should be taken out of Columbia County altogether, or more of its voters should be put into the district.
"I think it's wrong for me to have just one box and yet have a vote in the county," Cheeks said.
A Senate map passed last year, and since stalled in a Democrat-controlled House committee, would give Cheeks a larger share of Columbia County.
Significant changes would result in a massive headache for local election officials.
"I'm very concerned about it," said Debbie Marshall, executive director of the county's Board of Elections. "Then my records would completely change. This is a major election year."
The county's legislative delegation, along with the rest of the state lawmakers, faces election this year in November.
The decision is not expected to change the county's boundaries for its two state House districts.
"I don't foresee it having an impact on Columbia County," said Rep. Ben Harbin, R-Evans, who represents the House's 80th District. "I do foresee it having an impact across the state."
He said that because he and Rep. Barry Fleming, R-Harlem, are already contained within the county boundaries and fairly represent the area in the House.
"We had almost perfect population for two districts," Harbin said. "We had South Carolina up against our backs, so they couldn't shove us that way, and we were solid Republican voting, so what they did was just split us up into two districts.
"I think that will stay the same, that's the way all maps across the state should have been drawn."
The Columbia County News-Times ©2013. All Rights Reserved.