Cobb County commissioners are considering a proposal to invoke Georgia’s Home Rule statute and replace a contentious district map already approved by the Georgia General Assembly and Gov. Brian Kemp (R).
The state’s Home Rule statute allows local entities to make laws pertaining to their own governance and is provided in the Georgia constitution to protect local governments from state overreach.
One of the objectives is to keep Commissioner Jerica Richardson (D) in office, as the currently approved map, pushed by Republicans in legislature, draws her out of District 2 and into District 3, where Republican incumbent JoAnn Birrell sits. Should the Republican-approved map become established, Richardson will become ineligible for office come January 1st, 2023.
State Rep. Erick Allen (D) notes that there is no precedent for the state legislature using redistricting to draw out local elected officials from their districts. Additionally, Allen says this year’s process specifically targets Black women who were elected in 2018 and 2020 to represent East Cobb, a traditionally conservative area. These officials include Richardson, Charisse Davis of the Cobb County Board of Education, and US. Rep. Lucy McBath.
“So, there’s some fundamental issues that we need to be fighting,” says Allen. “I think the reinstitution of a map is the least of those.”
Richardson says, “This particular activity has never happened before in the history of Georgia,” in reference to both her potential removal from office and the invokement of the Home Rule statute to redraw the district map. Both Allen and Richardson have described this proposal as unprecedented.
“We’re in unprecedented territory,” says Richardson. “So truly any response we have, would create precedent as a response.” Such a precedent, according to Richardson, could affect future redistricting of Georgia’s 159 counties.
The commissioner adds, “We’re in an imperfect situation, an imperfect circumstance. That’s just where we are. It’s not going to be this clean, happy go lucky … However, it is a perfect check and balance moving forward.”
Because the proposed amendment would take effect at the end of the year, the 2022 elections for Districts 1 and 3 will be unaffected by the change.
Lisa Cupid, chair of the Cobb Board of Commissioners, supports the amendment. “The drastic nature of the state’s action has undermined the cooperation that generally does occur and should occur with counties and their local delegation when redrawing district lines. It has also undermined the expectation voters should have in trusting that those they elect to serve will be able to do so,” Cupid explains. “I could not sit idly by and watch the integrity of this board’s composition and our citizens’ vote be callously undermined.” She adds, “I look forward to voting to support the exercise of our home rule authority, our county, and our citizens.”
Cobb County commissioners will vote on the proposed amendment twice starting next month, which will ultimately determine whether this practice becomes precedent in the state of Georgia.