The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Georgia Brunswick Division signed a ruling Tuesday establishing new district lines in Long County.
The ruling established a new county map and altered all five districts. District 5, previously identified as the Tibet Community District, took in land from all four of the other districts and increased in land mass by approximately 40 percent; it now runs across the entire county to Cecil Nobles Highway. District 4 also changed dramatically and lost a lot of area, including a swath of Ludowici.
Additionally, the new lines affect two people who were slated to take seats on the Long County Board of Education. Unopposed in the July primary were District 3 incumbent Florence Baggs and District 5 candidate Julie Dawson, who was the only person to qualify from the district after Emma Strickland decided not to seek re-election. Under the new map, Dawson’s residence now is now in District 3, meaning both candidates will have to run against each other for the seat. Furthermore, District 5 is left with no candidate for its vacant seat. No other general-primary candidates were affected by the new maps.
The Long County Commission and the Long County Board of Education asked the court to make a decision on redistricting due to the U.S. Justice Department’s Aug. 27 ruling that the previously proposed district map did not meet the requirements of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Regarding the proposed map, the court took issue with District 3, where the voting-age African-American population decreased. According to the new map approved by the court, this population now is 46.59 percent.
In District 1, the total African-American population increased from 18.72 percent to 20.87 percent; in District 2, it increased from 19.99 percent to 21.18 percent; in District 3, it increased from 43.83 percent to 46.62 percent; and in District 4, it increased from 21.82 percent to 28.56 percent. The only other area where the total African-American population decreased was in District 5, where it fell from 31.15 percent to 17.75 percent.
Though the order was signed Oct. 30 by U.S. District Court Judge J. Randal Hall and 11th Circuit Court of Appeals Chief Judge Lisa Godbey, it cannot be adopted until two requirements are met. First, the public must be given a comment period, and second, a legal notice of the ruling must run for at least two days in the Coastal Courier. Long County Board of Elections Chairwoman Vanessa Cunningham said members of the public who want to comment on the plan can send their remarks to the federal district court in Brunswick by 5 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 7. Anyone with questions about the comment period can contact the Long County Board of Elections office at the courthouse.