ATLANTA — A Georgia Senate committee approved a controversial bill Thursday to almost double the size of the Gwinnett County Commission, one day after it came under heavy fire from Democrats.
Senate Bill 6EX is sponsored by state Sens. Clint Dixon, R-Buford, and Lee Anderson, R-Grovetown.
The Senate State and Local Governmental Operations Committee approved the bill along party lines after a more than 90-minute hearing Thursday morning.
Democrats unsuccessfully attempted to table the bill for more discussion.
State Sen. Emanuel Jones, D-Decatur, said Dixon’s bill is designed to dilute minority voting power in one of the state’s most diverse counties.
“Choosing to draw maps behind closed doors and rush past any public processes unjustly silences nearly one million Gwinnettians,” the Georgia Youth Justice Coalition said Thursday.
“We understand Sen. Dixon’s push to diminish the voices and votes of Gwinnett to be yet another instance of racist backlash against diversity and inclusion in this county. The interests of one politician should not come before those of our communities.”
But Sen. Steve Gooch, R-Dahlonega, said expanding the commission’s size is a task that should have been completed years ago.
“There were no shenanigans involved in creating these new districts,” Dixon said.
More than a dozen people spoke against the measure, including Phyllis Richardson, policy and engagement manager for Common Cause Georgia, whose father and husband both served in the military.
“I should be with my husband attending events and parades in honor of all those who have served,” Richardson said. “Shame on you for holding a hearing on this sacred day. Instead I’m here to speak against a Republican attempt to gerrymander our communities of color.”
Along with Dixon, state Rep. Chuck Efstration, R-Dacula, said the maps are legal and consistent with all federal voting rights laws.
Democrat Nicole Love Hendrickson, chairman of the Gwinnett County Commission, said her county is a model of efficient representation and asked the committee to reject the proposal.
“At their core, the bills targeting Gwinnett County represent a blatant, unprecedented attempt to break up communities of color after record voter turnout in 2020 changed the makeup of the county’s governing bodies,” said Poy Winichakul, an attorney with the Southern Poverty Law Center.
“The bills violate both state and federal law. If passed by the General Assembly and signed into law by Gov. Kemp, these manufactured new districts will take decisions out of the hands of Gwinnett voters and put them into the hands of politicians who would implement agendas based on falsehoods about education curriculum and elections.”