Residents want representation, consistency in upcoming redistricting at Dalton public hearing

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Jul. 4—Georgia state lawmakers are a few months away from redrawing the lines of the state's legislative and congressional districts, and before they do so they're asking the public for input on the process that will help determine control of the state government and its policies for at least the next 10 years.

The Legislature's Joint Reapportionment Committee is hosting a number of public hearings around the state, and it held the fourth of 11 in Dalton on Wednesday night. Dozens of people from the 14th District came out, largely supporting keeping their district the way it is and advocating for the importance of diversity and representation when considering redrawing the lines.

Each district must have roughly the same number of voters. Since 2010, Georgia's population has grown by about 1 million residents, reaching 10.7 million.

Georgia's 14th District was created after the 2010 Census and had been represented by Republican Tom Graves until he stepped down and was succeeded by Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, elected in 2020.

Several of the speakers in Dalton mentioned Greene by name, saying they support her and want her to continue to be their congresswoman.

"I have very strong moral values and principles that I raise my children with. And I've learned from Marjorie Taylor Greene because she fights for those same moral principles," resident Terry Lister said. "She has the same integrity that I raised my children with, and I would like to see her stay as my representative."

Meanwhile, several of the speakers wanted lawmakers to know that representation — especially from Dalton and Whitfield County's Latino community — should be at the forefront when making redistricting decisions.

America Gruner, founder and president of the Coalition of Latino Leaders, said the 50% of Latinos that make up Dalton "are not a burden" but an "essential part of the flooring industry and the local economy."

"Dalton has doubled its Latino voters in the past decade," Gruner said, adding the state's additional district seat came largely from the population boon Whitfield County saw with its Latino growth. "That's why the new district is here. We are here, and the maps need to reflect that. We deserve to have our voices heard more fairly and make sure the Latino vote is not diluted."

Jose Morales, a Dalton resident of 35 years, asked the committee to take into consideration how vital the Latino community is to one of the state's most dependable workforces when redrawing district lines.

"We're a close-knit community, and we as the community keep our community together," Morales said. "We ask that the committee do their part to ensure that the process of redistricting is fair, transparent, nonpartisan, and that it allows for fair and equal representation for all of its residents."

Some people, such as Bartow County resident Austin Wang, think the committee should consider matching demographics better in districts. He thought being in the same congressional district as the Buckhead neighborhood didn't seem to make a lot of sense.

Others brought up worries of gerrymandering, the practice lawmakers use to create districts that favor one political party or another. Gerrymandering is common in redistricting as the majority party — which makes most of the decisions — fights to maintain its power.

Eddie Hall echoed many in the audience wanting the district to stay as it is, and he talked about how the people of Northwest Georgia felt underrepresented when the district stretched from the border of Alabama to East Georgia.

"Please try to keep us intact as much as possible," Hall said. "We've got a good strong, district [with] good, active people in this district."

Georgia Speaker David Ralston has said he hopes redistricting is complete before winter. In the fall, the Georgia General Assembly will convene a special session at the state Capitol to create new borders for state House, state Senate and U.S. House districts.

Contact Patrick Filbin at pfilbin@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6476. Follow him on Twitter @PatrickFilbin.

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