Reapportionment is required in the wake of new U.S. Census data conforming legislative districts to voting regulations mandating "one person, one vote" to allow for fair and proper representation.
The largest change to Bartow's representation will come from the creation of a new district encompassing eastern Bartow County and western Cherokee County under the title of District 14. Current State Sen. Barry Loudermilk, R-Cassville, serving District 52, will transfer to the new district as proposed under this plan.
"We're fortunate that they've put [a new district] in this area, we'll be increasing our representation in northwest Georgia," Loudermilk said, adding his regret over leaving longtime constituents in District 52. "It's a hard thing to do when you've represented areas for so long, but that was the right thing to do for northwest Georgia."
Under the current proposal, Bartow would continue to share representation from District 52, which covers all of Floyd continuing into portions of Gordon and Chattooga counties. Bartow would then lose coverage from State. Sen. Bill Heath, R-Bremen, of District 31.
A new senator would be elected in 2012 to serve District 52, which includes the western half of Bartow. Shortly following release of the reapportionment proposal, a Senate hopeful from Rome threw his hat in the ring by announcing his candidacy contingent on the plan's approval.
Floyd County Commissioner Chad Whitefield announced Friday his plans to run for the District 52 Senate seat should the proposed reapportionment plan proceed. In 1996, Whitefield helped create Advanced Rehabilitation Physical Therapy now operating 18 clinics in Alabama, Florida and Georgia.
"Having created jobs with my business in Floyd, Gordon, Bartow and Chattooga counties, I feel prepared to take on the toughest challenge our state faces and that is creating jobs," Whitefield stated in a release. "Now more than ever we have to find free market solutions to solve Georgia's problems, and that means being fiscally responsible."
The plan would also alter Bartow's State House seats to include districts 14, 15 and 16. Lines are moved about as the county loses District 12 currently represented by State Rep. Rick Jasperse, R-Jasper, while gaining District 16 represented by State Rep. Rick Crawford, D-Cedartown.
Current, districts that would remain in Bartow are 14 and 15 covered by State Rep. Christian Coomer, R-Cartersville, and State Rep. Paul Battles, R-Cartersville, respectively.
The current proposal was drafted by State Rep. Roger Lane, R-Darien, chairman of the House Legislative and Congressional Reapportionment Committee. According to a release from the Georgia House of Representatives, the plan splits 72 of Georgia's 159 counties into the 180 House seats.
"It's been tough putting this plan together, but we've created a plan that does a great job of representing all Georgians and complying with all legal requirements," Lane stated in the release. "I'm proud of the plan that we've created together and look forward to a bipartisan vote in favor of this plan."
There were no Bartow County leaders on the Joint Reapportionment Committee but members of the legislature did have input on how their districts were affected. Loudermilk noted that although lines changed, many situations remained consistent, including Floyd's single Senate seat and Bartow's split representation.
"There were some tough decisions to make there. In fact, my district is the most affected district of any district," Loudermilk said. "What we were trying to do is to keep communities of interest in tact. We wanted to keep the number of counties that were split very low; in fact, we split fewer counties than the court drawn maps we are currently under."
Friday afternoon, following the proposal announcement, the Georgia House Democratic Caucus released a statement decrying the plan as unfair for minority voters. The statement criticizes the "Republican-controlled House and Senate Reapportionment Committees" for creating a super-majority.
"In our initial assessment we see that the redistricting maps have drawn to create a super-majority for Republicans. We are analyzing these new maps and we will share information with the media and the public, as we determine how the citizens of Georgia will be impacted," said Sen. Horacena Tate, D-Atlanta, chair of the Senate Democratic Reapportionment Committee.