Pickens County will be split among two districts in the state senate and in the U.S. House of Representatives under re-apportionment maps set for approval this week by the state legislature.
The state senate will vote on the re-drawn maps this week. The house has already voted approval. The re-apportionment maps made significant changes to district lines at all levels across the state to accommodate the growing Georgia population.
State Senator Steve Gooch and State Rep. Rick Jasperse who represent Pickens County both said they doubted much will change from the proposed maps presented last week with only some “minor tweaking” still in discussion this week.
Under the new plans, Pickens will remain entirely in Jasperse’s district with the house seat number changing to the 11th.
While Pickens remains all together here for this state house seat, we will see new areas included with us in the redrawn district. While giving up a substantial portion of Gordon County and the small corner of Bartow that was formerly part of our state house district, the new lines will take in an area to the north in Murray County, including about half of the city of Chatsworth.
Jasperse said he will continue to represent his current district for the next year and half, but has already sent out information to the new county and municipal officials in Murray and will begin working to get to know them.
Jasperse, who is in his first full term, said the whole statewide redistricting process is like “squeezing a balloon”––when you squeeze in one place, it has to re-shape somewhere else.
While acknowledging politics played a role, Jasperse said it really comes down to the numbers. Every district needs to have the same population. State house districts need to have 53,000 residents, according to the most recent federal census. Before re-dividing, Jasperse’s district had close to 70,000. With a growing population in North Georgia, some new lines had to be created and the people spread out.
“We had to make it fit,” he said. “Think of it as 180 chunks of 53,000.”
Jasperse, a longtime Pickens resident, said when he addressed the re-apportionment committee his goal was to keep Pickens County united in one district and have east Gordon County attached to it.
“I think the areas like Fairmount, Ranger and Oakman identify with Pickens,” he said.
Senator Steve Gooch said he hated losing half of Pickens, but there are advantages to the people in counties that are split into two different senate districts.
Half of Pickens will remain in Gooch’s 51st district with the western half moving to the 54th District, currently represented by Senator Charlie Bethel, a Republican from Dalton, who serves as the party’s deputy whip.
“One of the advantages of being split into two districts, is there will be two votes representing Pickens in the senate,” Gooch said. He gave an example of some funding issue that might affect Chattahoochee Tech’s Pickens campus, and there would be two senators who will consider it a local priority. He said this way the senators “have some backup” on the local issues.
Gooch said he and Bethel sit one chair apart on the senate floor and know each other, and he believes they will work well together.
For state senate districts, the current population of the 51st district had grown to 200,000 and needed to be reduced to 172,000 under new reapportionment.
“I will continue to serve Pickens County in its entirety,” Gooch said. “I will still work with officials in Jasper, Nelson and the other areas and all the citizens.”
Gooch said he will address the re-apportionment committee one more time to object to the changes involving the 9th Congressional district.
The proposed congressional map will create a new District 14, which will include west Pickens and be represented by Tom Graves, who resides in Ranger, east Gordon County.
In the national census, Georgia’s population had grown enough to give it a new seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. The re-drawn 9th Congressional District will include east Pickens. Portions of both Pickens and Forsyth counties are included with other whole counties stretching to the northeast corner of the state as the redrawn 9th.
Gooch and Jasperse both said they had received several calls from people concerned about Pickens being split into two congressional districts and about Tom Graves’s district being changed where he no longer represents half of the county.
“People in Pickens, Gilmer and Fannin are not happy about losing Tom Graves as their representative,” Gooch said.
A spokesman for Congressman Graves said they were delaying making any specific comments until everything was final.
An e-mail from the congressman included the following statement from Congressman Graves, “While we must wait for the state legislature to work its will, if the new Congressional map holds, it will be an honor to run for reelection in the 14th district and continue working on behalf of Northwest Georgia as I bring the message of less government and personal freedom to the new counties joining our community. Most importantly, my focus remains on representing the current 9th district to the very best of my ability.”
The changes in representation will take place on January 1, 2013.