“The Cobb Delegation worked with the commission so that the timing of the new maps would not affect this upcoming election,” Dollar said Friday.
The districts represented by commissioners JoAnn Birrell and Helen Goreham are up for election this year. While Birrell plans to run for another term, Goreham has announced this will be her last year on the board.
Carson said the idea is to have new district maps drawn by lawmakers with input from commissioners rather than the existing lines, which were drawn by a federal judge.
“I’m comfortable with putting together something that makes the maps effective for 2016,” Carson said.
Commissioners adopted a resolution Tuesday asking the Legislature to delay any redrawing of Cobb’s commission districts until 2015 when no commissioners will be up for re-election.
The resolution, spearheaded by Birrell, was adopted in a 4-1 vote with Bob Ott opposed. Ott believes it’s the Legislature’s job to redraw district lines, not the commissioners.
“That is a legislative function that is defined in the Constitution,” he said.
Birrell said state Sen. Judson Hill (R-east Cobb), chairman of the 21-member Cobb Legislative Delegation, sent her a copy of a possible new map. But Hill has not returned calls or emails asking about his proposed changes.
In a Jan. 26 email from Hill to Birrell with the subject line “Cobb County Commission map,” Hill writes: “Sorry for the delay — today is the first day I have been home in a while.”
Hill attached a new map in his email to Birrell, which can be found on the MDJ’s website.
Some critics say Birrell’s reason for opposing a new map is that she wants to keep her church, the Catholic Church of St. Ann on Roswell Road in east Cobb, within her district. Birrell doesn’t deny the allegation.
“Well, I’d like to have the church that I attend and congregation that I’m a member of, I’d like to represent them. I mean, it’s not a do-or-die thing, but it’s kind of like where you live and where you worship,” she said.
But that’s not her only reason for opposing a redistricting.
Passing a map that affects the May 20 primary is “an injustice and a hardship to the voters” because it won’t give them much time to become acquainted with their new district, she said.
Carson agrees with Birrell’s timing argument, which is why he says the new map wouldn’t activate until 2016.
But Birrell has other concerns.
“There are some things I don’t like about the redistricting on the map that I’ve seen,” she said Friday. “It still splits the Mableton community, and that was a big fight last time, and it takes everything north of Roswell Road where a lot of my support and constituency is.”
The last time commissioners and the Cobb Legislative Delegation tackled redistricting, it ended up in court. In 2012, lawmakers proposed a map that divided the community of Mableton, then represented by District 4 Commissioner Woody Thompson, placing some of it in Ott’s District 2.
Thompson, who went on to be defeated by Lisa Cupid, objected to the change at the time, as did Birrell and Goreham.
Thompson, Birrell and Goreham proposed their own map, although when it came to a vote, Ott and Tim Lee voted against it.
Lawmakers never approved either option before the deadline, so the process went before a federal judge who redrew the map in 2012.
Cupid, the lone Democrat on the board, said she also opposes a new map.
“There’s a lot of pride and ownership in that (Mable House Arts Center), and for that to be taken and moved to a district that I think has a lot of resources . . . it could have a negative impact on our district,” she said.
Cupid, who has shared her opinion with lawmakers, said the proposed map would increase the number of Republican voters in Ott’s district. Ott said his district was 53 percent Republican in the 2012 election.
State Rep. David Wilkerson (D-Austell) is also critical of the proposal.
“It looks like Mableton is just a casualty of a partisan redistricting process,” Wilkerson said. “It has nothing to do with Mableton. It purely has to do with the demographic of the voters they think would be more friendly to a Republican so they’re trying to draw it into Ott’s district.”
Wilkerson believes lawmakers should have commissioners on board with the redrawing of boundary lines. If they move ahead with a new map without commissioners on board, “It’s a disregard for local control,” he said.