10/23 - Where Redistricting Will Play Out

Why a shifting Middle Georgia and a declining rural population are the key

Intro

First, sorry for another delay. The state’s absentee file didn’t process correctly on Wednesday night/Thursday morning, and then the midday update they put out was in a slightly different format that my Python script wasn’t able to handle. Thankfully we got the normal files today and were able to update this email with the most up-to-date information.

With one full week to campaign ahead of November 3rd the early vote is showing that the importance of an October surprise might have lost its luster these days. The surprise seems to be the enthusiasm and follow through of Georgia voters. We’ve already had 2,331,702 people vote in the 2020 election, and by the end of today we will surpass the total number of early votes from the 2016 election.


Redistricting Middle Georgia for State House Control?

Metro Atlanta will get a lot of attention during the upcoming redistricting, but it is the middle Georgia districts that look prime to move the needle in a big way for the balance of power under the gold dome. A string of reliably Republicans districts cutting through middle Georgia showed serious Democratic growth in the June primary, following trends in the Atlanta suburbs that could spell doom for the Republican majority. 

These middle Georgia districts were safe Republican seats when they were drawn a decade ago. Now, through a mixture of population decline, demographic change, and voter engagement, we are seeing more toss up districts. Here are a few example districts that are all held by Republicans, but were down to R+5 or less in the June 2020 primary.

HD 138: 48.8% R 51.2% D

HD 140: 51.3% R 48.7% D

HD 141: 53.3% R 46.7% D

HD 144: 51.6% R 48.4% D

HD 145: 49.0% R 51.0% D 

HD 146: 54.6% R 45.4% D

HD 147: 47.6% R 52.4% D

There is no way for Republicans to hold these 7 seats for the next decade, especially with 2 of them already leaning Democratic. The question will become which seats they are willing to trade away in order to save the others. Or, will they even have the ability to make that call if they can’t hold on in 2020 and lose the state House majority.


Vanishing Georgia

The early vote in rural Georgia is unfortunately highlighting the region's population decline. This is especially true in south Georgia. The four lowest congressional districts in Georgia for early vote compared to percentage of 2016 vote totals are GA-02, GA-03, GA-08, and GA-12. These four districts are all below 55% of the 2016 totals and are lagging behind the congressional districts that are centered around and north of metro Atlanta. 

While most of these districts are Republican leaning (even the 2nd, held by Democratic Representative Sanford Bishop, has a more conservative bent than other Democratic held districts in Georgia) the lower participation cannot solely be chalked up to voters more likely to vote day of. These districts will see better performance on day of, but we would be surprised if they don’t match the 2016 voter performance, while the other districts in north Georgia outpace their 2016 numbers by a mile. 

How will the GOP pivot to address this vanishing base of rural voters in the coming years? The Governor’s office is projecting that the metropolitan portions of Georgia will grow at a population rate over 15 times faster than the rural portions of the state. This disparity in growth will collapse what have been safe rural conservative districts at the Congressional and state house levels. The bigger question may not be the one we proposed to the GOP, but can Democrats not just rely on changing demographics in the state? Can they widen their appeal beyond the metro-Atlanta approach and go after more traditional white rural/suburban independents to capture governing majorities. 


Other Links

There’s a lot going on in politics, so we wanted to also share a few other links that we found interesting this week.

- In the most interesting way to win an election this year the Chatham County Commission seat for downtown Savannah was won by disqualification.

- There are burn rates in political campaigns and then there are Trump burn rates in political campaigns. 

- This has nothing to do with politics but it needs to be known. Phil Collins’s ex-wife and her new husband have barricaded themselves inside Collins’s Miami estate. Easy Lover? Not so much.


Closing

What races should be on our radar for 2021? What local offices or local referendums would highlight data interest in an off election year in Georgia? As we round the corner into the homestretch of 2020 we are geared up and excited to see what smaller local elections can show us based off the massive turnout of 2020. We continue to respond to what we are hearing. Please feel free to share your thoughts and questions, by responding to this email or reaching out to Ryan directly on Twitter (@gtryan).