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Democratic Legislator Asks Governor to Veto Maps

State Sen. Curt Thompson contends a majority-minority district could have been drawn in south Gwinnett for both new BOC and BOE maps.

State Sen. Curt Thompson (D-Tucker) wants Gov. Nathan Deal to kill new Gwinnett Board of Education and Gwinnett County Commission district maps passed by the Georgia General Assembly on the grounds that the lines dilute African-American voting power and violate federal law.

"My contention," Thompson said about both the education and commission maps, "is a majority-minority district could have been drawn in south Gwinnett."

He charges that the GOP, which led the redraw, simply chose not to draw a majority African-American district.

­­The law that Thompson says is being broken is the federal Voting Rights Act. Under the 1965 Act, Deep South states like Georgia that have a history of disenfranchising minority voters must get federal approval for new boundaries. New boundaries cannot have the motive or effect of breaking apart minority voting blocs.

Thompson sent a letter dated Sept. 9 to Deal officially asking for the vetoes on the basis that the maps dilute African-American voting power for the sole purpose of maintaining Republican incumbents, especially in the southern portion of Gwinnett County in the school district map and in the southern and western portions of the county in the county commission map.

In response to a request from Duluth Patch, State Sen. David Shafer  (R-Duluth) issued the following statement: "The maps went through several drafts. I opposed early versions that would have unnecessarily split the city of Duluth. I believe the final version passed by the General Assembly is fair."

Thompson also contends that he was not given a final copy of the Gwinnett Board of Commissioners map before it was "surreptitiously" put to a Senate vote as a so-called "local consent" item.

Those are items that affect only one county or city. They are generally agreed to by a county's legislative delegation, then passed unanimously as a courtesy by the whole legislature. But the highly partisan atmosphere surrounding redistricting apparently resulted in barriers among normally cooperative Democrats and Republicans in county delegations that write local laws.

By a 37-3 vote, the Senate passed the Gwinnett Commission map, which was bundled with a Webster County map. The same map, also bundled with other counties' business, passed the House on a nearly party-line 124-33 vote.

The education map was bundled with others and easily passed the House. The Senate voted on it alone, where it split the parties and passed 33-18.

The maps were sent to the governor on Sept. 1 after a short summer special session of the state legislature. Every 10 years, the legislature holds such a special session to redraw and equalize political districts based on new U.S. Census data.

The governor has until Oct. 10 to sign the bills or they become law without his signature.

If the maps are not vetoed by the governor, next they move to Washington, DC, for approval either by the federal Department of Justice or federal judges. If the maps are cleared, they will be used in Gwinnett's 2012 elections. If the feds don't like what they see, the legislature must draft something different and try again.

Thompson's district includes parts of DeKalb and Gwinnett counties including a portion of unincorporated Gwinnett with Duluth addresses in the Gwinnett Place Mall area.

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