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Georgia lawmakers could bring local changes in redistricting process

State House District 139, which Rep. Patty Bentley currently represents, fell short by about 15,000 people

MACON, Ga. — The Georgia General Assembly is knee-deep in its special session for the once-in-a-decade redistricting process. 

After every Census, legislators have to redraw the lines of congressional and state legislative districts to make them equal in the amount of people per district. 

Though the state has grown by a million people in the last decade, according to 2020 Census data, several parts of Central Georgia have shrunk in population while metro Atlanta has grows.

Census records show House District 139 lost more people over the last 10 years compared to any other state House district. 

Right now, the district stretches through part of Peach County into Taylor, Macon, and Dooly counties, but these new numbers could mean that district will move and cost the area a state representative. 

Each House district in Georgia needs a population of 59,511, based on the 2020 Census. 

But District 139, which Rep. Patty Bentley currently represents, fell short by about 15,000 people. 

"It concerns me that there is that possibility that because my district lost so much population that it could be merged with one of my colleagues in the [state] House of Representatives--whether Democrat or Republican," Bentley said. 

Because of the population change, legislators proposed moving District 139 to the Columbus area and a new district would expand into Peach, Dooly, Macon, Sumter and Taylor counties, but on top of keeping the same number of people in each district, legislators also have to consider Section II of the Voting Rights Act which deals with keeping fair demographic proportions. 

Credit: WMAZ

In Bentley's district, minorities are the majority. 56 percent of the district is Black, according to 2020 Census data. 

"I think they'll strongly consider that," Bentley said. 

"I would expect them to take efforts to try to ensure that she continues to have a district which should but she can win," said Charles Bullock, political science professor at the University of Georgia. 

Senator David Lucas' district, Georgia Senate District 26, is also taking a hit. 

It's more than 29,000 short of the 191,284 needed for each State Senate district. 

His Senate district lost the second most amount of people in the state. 

So now, legislators are talking about redrawing the lines, moving out of Jones and part of Bibb County, and potentially covering Johnson County. 

Credit: WMAZ

"I got plenty of problems with it," Lucas said. "Why would you take me 80 miles southeast?" Lucas said. 

Johnson County historically sways Republican and is majority white. 

In this case again, Bullock says legislators will need to add more people to the district but also consider demographic ratio. 

"Are you going to be able to bring in African Americans so that it stays roughly the same proportion Black that it is now, or can you maybe simply not find that Black population so it becomes whiter?" Bullock said. 

Both Rep. Patty Bentley and Sen. David Lucas say they plan to run for reelection once their terms expire.