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Lawmakers OK each others' districts
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ATLANTA — New political maps for Georgia's 236 state legislators are on their way to Gov. Nathan Deal for his signature.

The House on Tuesday gave final passage to the Senate plan by a 104-56 vote. The Senate approved the House plan 36-16.

In each chamber, parties reiterated their positions in the roughly hour-long debate ahead of the vote. Republicans argue the maps are fair, constitutional and comply with the Voting Rights Act, and Democrats say they dilute minority voting strength.

"To the best determination I can make, I believe this meets the requirements of the law," said Senate redistricting chairman Mitch Seabaugh, R-Sharpsburg, concerning the proposed House map.

Although Seabaugh said he did not participate in or observe the House map-making process, he said he was assured that the maps are legal and will pass muster with the Department of Justice or federal courts — which must approve Georgia's maps under the Voting Rights Act.

Democrats again objected to the Republican proposals, saying they water down minority voting strength and are aimed at creating GOP supermajorities. Sen. Horacena Tate told her colleagues the House proposal is "politically re-segregating Georgia."

Sen. Vincent Fort, D-Atlanta, warned against racializing the Democratic Party in the state by making it "a black party."

"That is not something I want," Fort said. "If I'm isolated, my constituents are isolated. We become an afterthought and not a part of the mainstream."

The maps pit 20 House members and two senators against fellow incumbents in their own party. In the Senate, the faceoff will be between the chamber's longest serving member George Hooks, of Americus, and Freddie Powell Sims, of Dawson.

Democrats complained the Republicans were purging Hooks, one of the few remaining white Democrats. But Republicans said population loss in south Georgia is to blame.

"It's not politics. It's not personal. It's simple math," House Majority Whip Ed Lindsey, of Atlanta, said.

Neither the House nor the Senate made any changes to the maps crafted by the opposite chamber.

There was no move in the Senate to address Gov. Nathan Deal's concern that the House plan would carve Hall County — his hometown — into seven districts.

Deal has 40 days to sign the maps into law. Georgia lawmakers must redraw district lines once a decade to line up with new U.S. Census data.

Lawmakers will now turn their attention to a proposed congressional map. Georgia's population gains mean the state is earning an additional congressional district which lawmakers have proposed placing in the northeast corner of the state.

Hearings are set to begin Wednesday on the congressional plan.


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