This past week Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue signed into law commonsense congressional district lines. For the first time since a Democratic State House drew the original gerrymandered district lines in 1990, we have new lines that actually represent areas of mutual regional interests and historic ties.
Congressional districts should be devised to best suit the representation needs of the people, rather than the careers of politicians, and these lines appear to finally accomplish that goal.
Prior to the 1990 redistricting session by a then-Democratic majority state House and Senate, northeast Georgia was divided between the 9th and 10th Districts.
Beginning in 1895, the "Original 10th" was an Augusta-to-Athens District, while the "Original 9th" was a North Georgia mountains district. Each would expand or contract slightly with the federal census, but the basic districts remained the same.
Then in 1990 the first gross gerrymandering entered the process. By the time a Democratic House, Senate and governor were done, we had a new 11th District, stretching from inner-city Atlanta eastward to inner-city Augusta, and connected in places by the Savannah River to the inner-city neighborhoods of Savannah, guaranteed to elect a Democrat. Every other district in the state had to be adjusted to accommodate Cynthia McKinney's ambitions.
Those were the district lines when I first ran for Congress in 1994 in the still largely "Original 10th," which included Augusta, Athens, some Atlanta suburbs and as far north as the foothills around Lavonia and Homer.
But McKinney's 11th District was such a glaring case of gerrymandering that it was overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1995, causing every district in the state to be redrawn.
The new 10th District was centered on Augusta. But it no longer included Athens, and it chopped off our northern counties at Elberton and extended the lines westward and southward all the way to Macon, Dublin, and Swainsboro.
Then, following the 2000 federal census, the Democrats went back to blatant gerrymandering again. This time they not only changed the lines, but changed the historic district numbers. The 10th District became the 9th District, and now stretched from Augusta all the way to the North Carolina line. It excluded Athens by encircling Clarke County, leaving a narrow land bridge so Athens' Democratic voters could be gerrymandered in with inner city Augusta and Savannah in the new 12th District.
Moreover, this time the Democrats drew multiple snaking districts across the state that had nothing to do with representing people, and everything to do with rigging elections.
This outrage was undoubtedly one of the catalysts behind Republicans taking over the state Senate and winning the governorship in 2002, and gaining the majority in the state House in 2004.
Republicans in Atlanta have now provided Georgians with commonsense Congressional district lines. Our new district come very close to the historic Northeast Georgia districts of the past, with adjustments made statewide for the two new congressional seats we picked up in the 2000 census due to our growing population.
In 2006 we'll be back to being called the 10th District once again, while the rest of the Georgia mountain counties will rejointheir original 9th District.
The new 10th District will include Columbia, McDuffie, Lincoln, Wilkes, Towns, Rabun, Habersham, Stephens, Banks, Franklin, Hart, Jackson, Madison, Elbert, Oglethorpe, Clarke, Oconee, Morgan, Putnam, Greene and northwest Richmond counties.
The new lines will be in effect for the Nov. 2006 General Election. Be sure to vote.
(U.S. Rep. Charlie Norwood, R-Augusta, represents Columbia County and Georgia's 9th Congressional District.)
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