Birrell said state Sen. Judson Hill (R-east Cobb), chairman of the 21-member Cobb Legislative Delegation, plans to file a redistricting bill in the Georgia Senate and state Rep. Rich Golick (R-Smyrna) plans to file one in the House.
Hill could not be reached for comment by press time, although Golick said he does not plan to file a redistricting bill this year.
County Chairman Tim Lee said Cobb lawmakers have not consulted with him about the new map.
“I’ll be voting with Helen and JoAnn to ask the legislators not to change the map, unless somebody comes forward with a good rationale as to why it should be done,” Lee said. “We’re spending time and money and energy on something that if nobody understands why it’s being done, at least not on the commission level, so my ‘ask’ would be that they don’t do it.”
Birrell provided some history of the redistricting process. Following the 2010 census, the federal government required the redrawing of the four commission districts, she said, each of which includes about 172,000 people.
After the census, lawmakers proposed a map that divided the community of Mableton represented by District 4 Commissioner Woody Thompson, placing some of it in Bob Ott’s District 2.
Thompson, who went on to be defeated by Lisa Cupid, objected to the change at the time, as did Birrell.
“I didn’t like that because it split up Mableton and a lot of people from Mableton came and spoke and asked us to keep Mableton a community,” Birrell said. “It’s not an incorporated city, so their representation is the commissioner.”
Thompson, Birrell and Goreham proposed their own map, although when it came to a vote, Lee and Bob Ott voted no.
Lawmakers never got around to approving either map before the deadline, so the process went before a federal judge who redrew the map for them in 2012.
“My whole reason for asking them not to redistrict at this time is mainly because to me it would be a hardship on the voters, and the Board of Elections, because the primary has been moved up to May 20,” Birrell said.
The proposed map
Birrell said she’s reviewed the proposed map and it does the same thing lawmakers tried to do back in 2012.
“It splits Mableton again like it did before,” Birrell said. “There’s two precincts in Mableton that would move over to (Ott’s) District 2 . . . It also has District 1, which is Helen Goreham’s district now, going into the middle of Smyrna.”
Lee said he would have appreciated if lawmakers included commissioners in on the redistricting discussion before moving ahead with it.
“In the best world, I would have preferred them to come talk to me or at least come discuss what they’re doing and why they’re doing it because it affects constituency representation on a local county level, so in a perfect world I would have loved to have that discussion before they went forward with it,” Lee said. “I think modifying a map in such a short period, I just think it’s a local map, it’s a local representation issue, OK? And I think it’s something that warrants discussion with the people it affects, i.e. the district commissioners at a minimum.”
State Rep. Earl Ehrhart (R-Powder Springs) said he hasn’t seen any maps yet, but planned to ask that whatever was proposed not become active until next year.
“If you’re going to run in a district that’s going to be changed three months before, that’s fairly difficult not only for the constituents, but the people who are running, so I’m going to suggest that if we do anything we at least make it effective a year from now,” Ehrhart said.
Lee called Ehrhart’s proposal a good compromise, “but again, I’d like to know why we’re doing it to begin with.”