Thursday, March 29, 2012

Lack of Redistricting Map Causing Confusion for Candidates and Voters

Thursday, March 29, 2012
Augusta, GA
By The Outsider

UPDATE: GA House Fails to Pass Map-2R

The saga over the  redistricting of commission and school board races for Richmond County have left a lot of people scratching their heads in confusion. At one point, the ad-hoc redistricting committee had voted unanimously to endorse what was known as map 3-R after considering several drafts. That map, however, was blocked when committee members Jerry Brigham and Grady Smith changed their minds a week later and kept it from getting the endorsement of the full commission.

Then the saga played out in Atlanta with Sen. Hardie Davis Jr (D Augusta) backing map 3-R and State Sen. Jesse Stone (R Waynesboro) siding with Commissioner Jerry Brigham who wanted a new map drawn up entirely. That stalemate ended up with both legislators agreeing to withdraw their requests and instead opting to keep the current commission and school board district maps... so after everything it appeared there would be no change at all to the old maps.

But wait.. a week later that changed when State Sen. Jesse Stone introduced a different map in a Senate committee. This is known as Map-2R and it was one of the drafts considered by the ad-hoc redistricting committee the previous fall. In the end, the committee passed Map-2R. If it passes The GA House before the adjournment, it will go into effect for this year's local elections pending approval by the US Justice Department. But with all the twists and turns over redistricting, who really knows what will happen by the time the General Assembly adjourns?... But for right now, it appears that map-2R will be the one.

But things can change rapidly in the General Assembly. In just one day it appeared that non-partisan local elections would be held as usual on the November General election ballot when a Senate Bill that included a provision to move the elections to July failed, but then later that night, at 10pm, The House passed a bill sponsored by rep. Barbara Sims (R Augusta) that would indeed move local elections to July. Got all that?

Well all of this confusion is creating a big headache for Augusta commission and school board candidates, not to mention, the voters.  The problem is that with the election seemingly only 4 months away, candidates still have no idea exactly what the districts they will be running in will look like. The only map that appears on the city's website is map 3-R, but it's Map 2-R that passed the senate committee earlier this week. We have been unable to locate a copy of Map-2R on the city's website, where many candidates and voters would first go to look.

A simple web search also reveals no results for Map-2R. Having finalized district maps are extremely important to candidates at this point, with elections coming up over 3 months earlier than usual (unless that changes too). Running for office is expensive and time consuming. It involves spending thousands of dollars printing out campaign literature and countless hours knocking on doors. But without a finalized map, candidates don't know which doors to knock on or which mailboxes to send their literature to.

Some campaigns are also telling us that they have received calls from voters who are confused about whether they live in the district the candidate is running in. Map- 3-R had made some significant changes to Districts 1, 2, 6 and 7, with many precincts being shifted around.  How many of those changes will be retained in map-2R if it is the final map? Simply posting a copy of Map-2R on the city's website could help clear up a lot of confusion among candidates and voters. Surely the city must have a copy of it somewhere, but as of publishing this article it has still not appeared on the city's website.

Certain campaigns are also telling us that they are worried the elections date may change yet again. Remember it went back and forth from November to July in just one day earlier this week and some fear it could change yet again. Some campaigns have already begun printing literature with July 31st as the election date. Will all of that have to be re-printed after next week if the date changes yet again? These are the types of uncertainties and extra expenses no political campaign needs.

If there is any lesson in all of this it's that it's never a good idea to make such significant changes to elections within the same calendar year, especially when the elections are just a little more than four months away. The redistricting issue should have been settled last year, even if it meant calling a special session of The General Assembly. It only happens once every ten years anyway. But here we are down to the wire of the 2012 session and still the redistricting maps for Augusta-Richmond County are not set in stone. That's frankly unacceptable. ***


Related Stories:

**Share this on Facebook or Google+ by clicking the buttons below**

No comments: