Will Atlanta’s City Council Become More Conservative?

Over the summer, there was a lot of talk about the Georgia Legislature’s special session for redistricting. During the session, Republicans pushed through controversial maps redrawing the district lines for State House, Senate, and Congressional seats. Perhaps lost in the shuffle was the fact that every municipality in the state has to also redraw their districts to reflect the 2010 census. Of particular interest to this blog is the redistricting process of the city of Atlanta, which will release draft maps tomorrow. A detailed analysis of the census numbers shows that the makeup of the Atlanta City Council could change dramatically and several incumbents will likely face stiff competition during the next city elections in 2013.

According to the 2010 census, the city of Atlanta had a total population of approximately 420,000. The city charter calls for twelve council districts, which means each council district should have approximately 35,000 residents. In addition, there are three at-large districts. According to an analysis released by the city, seven council districts are short of this goal.  The exceptions are districts 2, 6,7, 8, and 11. With the exception of district 11, the other overpopulated districts are located Downtown, Midtown,and Buckhead. Residents in these communities will have to be reassigned to make up the shortfall of residents in surrounding districts, which means that several council districts will become more diverse just like the city as a whole has become.
This should concern people who want progressive elected officials, because a large part of the city’s growth over the last ten years has occurred in areas where people vote more conservatively. Districts 6 and 9 have traditionally been represented by progressives. However,with the heavy population growth of Buckhead these districts may gain enough conservative voters to tip the balance of the next election.
The city’s most Democratic leaning districts are 1, 3, 4, 10, 11, and 12. These districts voted Democrat over 90% in the 2008 US Senate elections. All of these districts, with the exception of 11, lost residents over the last ten years.
Many people will try to change this conversation to race and say we are trying to promote African American candidates, but that notion is just a red herring. Atlanta politics have been coalition-based for a long time now. When Andrew Young won a congressional seat in the 1970’s it was because of coalition of African American voters and progressive whites. The same can be said when Wyche Fowler won that same seat. Nationally, President Obama would not have won without this same coalition.
While there are likely a number of ways to correct the population imbalance in the districts, here is our two cents. District 9 needs to move south into district 10. District 11, which gained voters since the last census, needs to shrink and some of those residents should be picked up by districts 1, 4, and 12. This type of redistricting would likely secure the progressive balance on the Council for the next decade.

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