Republicans in Georgia draw new congressional lines in their favor Facing political and demographic changes in the state over the last decade, Republicans in Georgia used redistricting to expand representation in Congress while ceding ground in the state legislature.

As Georgia grows more Democratic, its members of Congress will not

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MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

All year long, as the Biden administration has tried to move forward its agenda, the Democrat's razor-thin control of the House and Senate has been part of the story. And both parties know it. So now we want to spend some time talking about one of the key factors that could influence control of the House next year. And that is, you guessed it, how the states draw their maps this year.

States are supposed to draw their maps based on population changes recorded in the latest U.S. Census. But critics say some important battleground states are engaging in a more partisan process known as gerrymandering. So we're going to take a look at Georgia, where the legislature is set to give final approval tomorrow to a map that drastically overhauls congressional districts in Atlanta's northern suburbs and likely gives the GOP another seat. Joining us now to talk about all this is Georgia Public Broadcasting's Stephen Fowler.

Stephen, welcome. Thank you so much for joining us.

STEPHEN FOWLER, BYLINE: Always a pleasure.

MARTIN: So Georgia is a state that voted for Joe Biden for president and two Democratic U.S. senators in the last election. But it's controlled at the state level by Republicans. So how is that playing out in the map making this year?

FOWLER: Well, Georgia currently has 14 U.S. House seats - eight held by Republicans, six by Democrats. Two of those changed hands in the last few years. And those are the boundaries that shift the most under this new map. The sixth district in Atlanta's northern suburbs now runs more than 80 miles north of the city and includes some very, very conservative areas. Now, the 7th Congressional District packs in more Democrats into a majority nonwhite county next door. That means two Democratic incumbents, Representative Lucy McBath and Representative Carolyn Bourdeaux, will likely have to run against each other to try and stay in Congress.

MARTIN: Now, this is happening after the fact that - I think people who live in the area will know this - over the last decade, Georgia has grown by more than a million people. So who are some of these people? And is that growth reflected in the new redistricting maps?

FOWLER: Well, Michel, Georgia's now projected to be a majority nonwhite state pretty soon. More than 10% of the state identifies as Hispanic. The Asian American population has exploded. And hundreds of thousands of Black residents have flocked to metro Atlanta in the last 10 years. This congressional map, though, does not add any new majority-minority districts.

MARTIN: So how do they justify that? I mean, how do the people drawing these maps justify that? Or do they even have to justify it?

FOWLER: Well, you know, Georgia and other states used to have to get their maps pre-cleared by the federal government because they had a history of these discriminatory voting laws. And that's no longer the case because of the Shelby v. Holder ruling. So Republicans say they are following the letter and spirit of the law. Democrats, voting rights groups and others say that that's not necessarily the case. They're not fair and that they aren't adding more representation for diverse voters in the state.

MARTIN: There's been criticism of states around the country that these are just partisan proposals to preserve large, uncompetitive advantages for whatever party is in power. In most states, that's the Republicans. In a few states, that's Democrats. But it's just one seat in Georgia. But just - I have to ask you directly, Stephen, is that the case here? Is this gerrymandering?

FOWLER: Well, these redistricting advocates and Democrats would certainly say so. The congresswoman most affected, Representative Lucy McBath, is a Black woman who won reelection by about 10 points. The voters in her new district would've voted for former President Trump by more than 15 points. So when you take all of this into account, the competitive battleground status of Georgia, demographic shifts, the lack of another new district around metro Atlanta, this one seat for Republicans is a big deal.

Now, at the state level, Georgia also has the potential to flip to Democratic control at the statewide level. And it has an important U.S. Senate election next year, too. So every little thing matters. And these maps may favor Republicans now. But they might not last through the entire decade until the next census just because of how fast the demographics and politics are changing.

MARTIN: That is Georgia Public Broadcasting's Stephen Fowler. Stephen, thank you so much.

FOWLER: Thank you.

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