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Georgia Map Gets Closer

State AG Reviews Proposal Before Sending It to Justice Department

The office of Georgia Attorney General Thurbert Baker (D) is moving closer to submitting the state’s new Congressional boundaries to the Justice Department for review, the final hurdle for the GOP-led mid-decade redistricting effort.

Because Georgia falls under the Voting Rights Act, any changes made to representative lines must be preapproved by Justice before going into effect.

The Republican-controlled state Legislature approved a new map earlier this year, and the measure was signed into law by Gov. Sonny Perdue (R) in May.

Russell Willard, a spokesman for Baker, said that the Georgia Legislature passed several measures this year that required Justice Department review. Of them, the Congressional map was the least time sensitive and therefore the other matters have been given priority.

If approved, the new maps will go into effect for the 2006 elections.

Willard said the redistricting package is now nearing completion, after Baker’s office received a final package containing comments and supporting documents from state legislative leaders last week. Attorneys in the AG’s office are now going through that material to decide what information to include in the final packet that will be sent to Justice.

Once the packet is received by the Justice Department, the review process is expected to take a minimum of 60 days.

Democrats are not currently expected to bring a high-profile legal challenge to the redistricting plan, as both national and state party leaders are more focused on devoting their resources to electoral wins in 2006.

Unlike the contentious Texas remap that took place in 2003 — which resulted in Republicans picking up six House seats last year — the redrawing of Georgia’s current map is unlikely to produce a dramatic change in the makeup of the Congressional delegation, if any change at all.

The current Georgia delegation consists of seven Republicans and six Democrats. The oddly shaped Congressional map that has been in place since the 2002 elections was drawn by state Democrats with gains for their party in mind.

Former Reps. Mac Collins (R) and Max Burns (R) have announced plans to challenge Reps. Jim Marshall (D) and John Barrow (D), respectively, next year. Burns lost to Barrow last year and Collins lost a primary bid for an open Senate seat.

However, both incumbents are favored to win re-election in districts where Democrats still have an advantage.

The most significant change under the new lines is that Rep. Phil Gingrey’s (R) marginal suburban Atlanta 11th district of would become a safe Republican seat, if the new map is approved.

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