Is legislative redistricting "transparent?" | News
ATLANTA -- It may be to the state Capitol what Area 51 is to the Nevada desert -- a place shrouded in mystery, with red letters warning against entry, and black curtains blocking the glass.
It's next to the reapportionment committee office. It's the room where the maps are made.
"They've got computers in there, a lot of equipment and stuff," said Rep. Roger Lane, chairman of the House Reapportionment Committee. Lane couldn't explain why the windows were blacked out, though. "I didn't do it. I don't know."
The maps are the legislative boundaries, redrawn during a special session of the legislature based on 2010 census data. The process, behind the glass, is touted by Republicans as "transparent."
"It's been the most transparency I've seen in the system in twenty years," said Sen. Don Balfour, Republican chairman of the Rules Committee.
The maps matter because political power matters. Ten years ago, when the Democrats were in charge, they drew redistricting maps that at least temporarily solidified their majority in the legislature. This year the Republicans appear to be doing the exact same thing.
"You had to be a cartographer to be able to figure out what these maps said and did," said Rep. Stacey Abrams. The House Democratic leader argues that redistricting this year is not transparent -- that the Republican leadership has withheld details and stifled public comment while mapmaking in a cloaked office.
She concedes, however, that the current GOP leadership has been more transparent than the Democrats who made maps a decade ago.
"I'd say F graduated to a D-minus," Abrams said.
"To put the transparency process metaphorically: If the Democrats in 2001 had the door shut, the Republicans in this process have opened it up with the chain on it," said William Perry of Common Cause Georgia. "So you're able to peek in, but you can't quite get the full picture."