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Perdue signs redistricting bill, calls for task force

LaGrange Daily News (GA)

March 2, 2006

ATLANTA (AP) - Gov. Sonny Perdue on Wednesday signed a bill splitting the Democratic stronghold of Athens-Clarke County into two state Senate districts.

Separately, Perdue signed an executive order creating a task force to consider putting in place an independent panel to oversee redistricting in Georgia .

Too often redistricting is motivated by "partisan interests and the protection of incumbents," Perdue's order said. He said making the process independent would restore public confidence in the election process.

Under Perdue's order, the task force would issue a final report by the end of the year.

Senate Democrats dismissed the move as "a transparent attempt to shift attention from GOP gerrymandering in an election year."

Democrats have been sharply critical of the redistricting bill Perdue signed Wednesday. They argue it is little more than an electionyear scheme to pave the way for a Republican to win a vacant state Senate seat in Athens-Clarke County .

"The signing of this legislation represents one of the greatest cases of hypocrisy that I've seen during my long tenure as a legislator," Senate Democratic Leader Robert Brown of Macon said.

But state Senate President Pro Tempore Eric Johnson countered that when they were in power Democrats drew election boundaries that violated the Voting Rights Act and the Constitution.

"I am pleased that the governor has signed what we consider the first fair Senate district map prepared by the legislature since 1991," the Savannah Republican said.

Johnson said he supported Perdue's creation of an independent task force to study redistricting .

Both measures must be cleared by the U.S. Department of Justice before they become law.

Copyright, 2006, LaGrange Daily News (GA)

Section: News

Page: 004

Copyright, 2006, LaGrange Daily News (GA)