If a panel of federal judges adopts new maps tomorrow for the state legislature's political boundaries, Columbia County could see a new House member added.
But the county also would see the exiting of a Senate seat from its delegation, according to drafts of the court-ordered plan released Monday.
"We've got a much better product than we did before," Rep. Barry Fleming, R-Harlem, said about the proposed maps.
The three-judge panel ruled last month that Georgia's 2001 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.
After missing the deadline, the task went from the lawmakers to the court although House leaders spent last week deciding whether to pass their own revision.
Besides lumping a number of incumbents' together in the district, the court's draft version consolidates the 24th Senate District, held by Sen. Joey Brush, R-Appling. The district, which meandered through 12 counties from to south of Atlanta, was lumped into seven counties near Columbia County.
The draft also kicks out of the county the 23nd District, held by Sen. Don Cheeks, R-Augusta, that had one precinct in Harlem and placed him into Columbia County's delegation.
But the court's draft also showed the crossing of a Richmond County House district into Columbia County.
The 96th District, now held by Rep. Sue Burmeister, R-Augusta, takes over part of Martinez in the plan - an area Rep. Ben Harbin, Evans, now represents.
Under the existing maps, Harbin and Rep. Barry Fleming, R-Harlem, split all of Columbia County, and their districts are solely contained in the county.
Because of the dense population in the proposed 96th District in Martinez, Fleming's 79th District gets pushed north to cover all of Lincoln County and a portion of Wilkes County.
"I expected our districts to grow, but I didn't expect Sue to come into our district like she did," Harbin said. "But I think they had to have some districts in Richmond County to grow pushed her over.
"I think in the long run something like that was going to happen anyway as the population changes." Burmeister said that if the court maps are adopted, she would be included to run for re-election for her district.
Harbin said that the change, if made official, would not affect his campaign for re-election this year.
While his existing district line stops at Hardy-McManus Road, it would push out to the Windmill subdivision and Greenbrier Town Center under the court's plan.
"The precincts that I picked up are precincts that I've represented before," Harbin said. "I've always tried to rep the whole county anyway."
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