Reapportionment moving along

By Michael Davis

The state Senate approved a redistricting map that has at least one Democratic senator claiming his district has been "obliterated."

Sen. Terrell Starr, D-Jonesboro, said the map, passed through the Senate Friday and on its way to the House for a vote next week, will shift his district into the southern part of Clayton County. The district would include a large portion of Henry as well as some of Spalding and Butts counties.

"They're trying to create Republican districts," Starr said Friday. "But I'm not too worried about it yet. I don't think the House will approve it."

The General Assembly must approve a new district map for both the state House and Senate by March 1 under orders of a three-judge federal panel.

The panel found that the old maps, drawn under a Democratically controlled General Assembly, violated the principal of one person, one vote, by packing the districts of Democratic incumbents with too many Democratic voters.

A Senate committee voted quickly Wednesday to approve the map for Friday's vote. The House is expected to vote on the map on Monday.

The same three-judge panel, Thursday, denied a request by some state officials to halt the process. Secretary of State Cathy Cox has said there won't be enough time to put the districts in place before the July 20 primary. An attorney for the secretary, said he would file an appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court. A spokesman for Cox, Chris Riggall, said the odds of being ready for the elections are slim.

"We have grave – if not insurmountable – difficulties in meeting deadlines with the schedule for the primary," he said. "We see huge obstacles in meeting the statutory deadlines."

Some House members said the chances of any maps being approved by the deadline were also slim.

"Neither side will agree with the others' map," said Rep. John Lunsford, R-McDonough. He said he expects that the panel of judges which threw out the maps will be forced to draw the new maps.

Unlike partisan House and Senate members, Lunsford said, "The judges will be able to hold the counties, cities and precincts intact."

The Associated Press contributed to this article.