By Elena Parent, State Senator, District 42, State of Georgia and Chair, Senate Democratic Caucus
In a few months, the state legislature will enter the once-a-decade process of redrawing Georgia’s political maps.
In 2011, Republicans used their trifecta in the State Legislature to manipulate the redistricting process. Their priority was to increase their own power, rather than fairly represent the citizens of Georgia.
In 2010, I defeated a Republican incumbent and joined the State House, where I became a leading voice in the fight for fair districts – something that Republican leadership did not like.
Aiming to secure a supermajority in the House – and take back the seat I’d won – Republicans deliberately drew new maps that left me and another Democrat, State Rep. Scott Holcomb, both residing in House District 81.
I chose to step back. Rather than challenge a fellow Democrat and friend, I endorsed Rep. Holcomb and went on to become the Executive Director of Georgia Watch. But I did not stop fighting. In 2014, I was elected to the Senate. There, I have continued to fight for you and to make our voices heard.
The 2020 Census data has been released. Trust me, right now Republicans are gearing up to use the 2021 redistricting cycle to protect themselves and prevent Democrats from making any more inroads in Georgia.
Last year, our state sent two Democrats to the U.S. Senate and voted for Joe Biden. Republicans saw these victories not as a sign of their own failures, but as a threat to their power – a threat that must be “fixed.”
How? Through gerrymandering. In a well-functioning democracy, voters choose their representatives. In Georgia, elected officials choose their voters. I’ve repeatedly pushed those in power to institute reforms that would prevent politicians from drawing their own districts. Republicans, however, have refused to hand over power.
They know they can’t prevent Democrats from winning in statewide races. But they can draw maps that make it difficult, if not impossible, for Democrats to win down-ballot races. They can also do what they did to me and Scott in 2011 and draw Democrats into districts together.
The maps that are drawn matter. They define whether or not Georgians have access to healthcare and high-quality public education. They decide whether our children will be protected from gun violence. They define and decide our families’ futures.
Thus, as the upcoming redistricting process begins, we – as elected officials, activists and citizens – must pay attention. If we don’t, Republicans will create another anti-democratic map, designed to disenfranchise and suppress their opposition.
Let us know!