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SPLC Action Fund: In Electoral Ambush of Gwinnett County, Key Georgia Senate Committee Hijacks Special Session to Target Voters in State’s Second-Largest County

If signed into law, maps restructuring Board of Education, County Commission would dilute voting power of communities of color, violate state & federal law

ATLANTA – This week, the Georgia Senate Committee on State and Local Governmental Operations considered two bills which would significantly restructure major governing bodies of Gwinnett County, the second-largest county in the state and among the most diverse racially and ethnically. Gwinnett County also is the largest school system in Georgia, responsible for 1 in 10 students in the state. Contrary to Senate Rules and Gwinnett’s legislative delegation’s bylaws, these bills were not approved by a majority of the legislators representing the county prior to their introduction and consideration.

Yesterday, the committee voted along party lines 4-3 to send SB 5EX to the full Senate. This bill would draw new lines for the Gwinnett County Board of Education.  While the county is majority non-white, there are no majority-minority districts in the proposed map that ultimately passed by the committee. 

Today at 10:00 AM, the committee will reconsider Senate SB 6EX. This bill would double the number of districts in the Gwinnett County Commission and is expected to move forward.

The following statement is by Poy Winichakul, staff attorney with the SPLC Action Fund

“This week, Georgia’s legislative leaders hijacked a special session the governor called with the explicit instructions to redraw only the state’s congressional, state House and state Senate maps. Their goal: pass bills restructuring major governing bodies only in Gwinnett County to undermine the interests of Georgians there and dilute the political power of voters of color.

“Georgia’s legislative leaders devised these maps and bills in private, hid them from more than three-fourths of legislators from Gwinnett County, and prevented Georgians there from having meaningful input into how their future governing bodies are structured. Then, leaders scheduled a key committee hearing on a federal holiday to give themselves enough legislative time to rush the bills through at the eleventh hour of the special session.

“At their core, the bills targeting Gwinnett County represent a blatant, unprecedented attempt to break up communities of color after record voter turn-out in 2020 changed the makeup of the county’s governing bodies. The bills violate both state and federal law.

“If passed by the General Assembly and signed into law by Governor 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.”