House and Senate districts in the Georgia General Assembly are currently based on population and redrawn (reapportioned) after each U.S. census, though this has not always been the case (see History, below). The 2011 General Assembly will redraw district lines based on district-level data from the 2010 census, which should be released by the federal government in April.
At various times in Georgia history, House and Senate membership has been based on counties, population, or a combination of both. The number of members in the General Assembly has fluctuated with changes in the number of counties or increases and decreases in the population.
During some periods of our history the size of the House and Senate membership was set by the state constitution, which required constitutional amendments to redraw districts in response to new counties or population shifts. The current method of apportionment based on population rather than counties was adopted in 1965.
History House of Representatives
Beginning with the Constitution of 1789, and lasting until court decisions in the 1960s, counties still made up the basic unit of representation in the House. The number of Representatives sent by each county fluctuated over the years, as county populations fluctuated and as the formula for apportioning seats was altered. Throughout the period counties with larger populations received more representatives. Some examples of the size of the House of Representatives, and some of the formulas used, are:
1789 34 Representatives representing 11 counties: Camden, 2 representatives; Glynn, 2; Liberty, 4; Chatham, 5; Effingham, 2; Burke, 4; Richmond, 4; Wilkes, 5; Washington, 2; Green, 2; and Franklin, 2
1798 - The Constitution spelled out the population figures required for each countys representation and stipulated a minimum of one representative, and a maximum of four, for each county.
1832 208 Representatives representing 92 counties
1844 130 Representatives representing 93 counties
1861 The constitution stipulated that the 37 counties with the largest populations sent 2 representatives each, while all other counties sent 1.
1868 The constitution stipulated that the 6 counties the largest populations sent 3 representatives each, the 31 next largest sent 2 each, and the remaining 95 counties sent 1 each.
1924 207 Representatives representing 160 counties
2011 180 Representatives representing 159 counties
A 1964 U.S. Supreme Court decision (after a series of cases related to
apportionment in various states) effectively nullified the County System because
the disparity in populations between counties violated the principle of
one-person, one-vote. The General Assembly adopted a new plan in 1965 but the
court rejected it on the grounds that the number of voters represented varied
too widely from district to district. The Federal Court allowed the plan to
operate temporarily until further redistricting could be accomplished.
In 1967, in response to the court order, the House and Senate adopted new apportionment plans with the House reducing its membership from 205 to 195. Court objections to some districts led to further reapportionment at the 1968 session, but the courts allowed the new 195 member size to go into effect in 1969.
Shifts in population as reflected in the 1970 census necessitated further reapportionment resulting in the 1971 reduction of House size to 180 members, effective with the 1972 session.
The 1983 Constitution mandated that the House of Representatives contain not fewer than 180 members, and membership has remained 180 since then, though future reapportionment acts could increase the size of the House.
The Senate was created in 1789 and the state constitution of that year provided for
one representative from each of the 11 counties, regardless of population. The size of the Senate grew as the number of counties increased.
1789 11 counties/senators
1838 93 counties/senators
1844 A constitutional amendment replaced the one-per-county system with 47 single-member districts
1852 The one-per-county system was restored
1859 132 counties/senators (peak year)
1861 The constitution once again eliminated the one-per-county system and introduced a new district method in which the senate consisted of 44 members, one to be chosen from each senatorial district, which district shall be composed of three contiguous counties. If a new county is established it shall be added to a district which it adjoins until there shall be another arrangement of the senatorial districts. The senatorial districts shall not be changed except when a new census shall have been taken.
1868 The constitution revised the method slightly, stipulating that If a new county be established it shall be added to a district which it adjoins, and from which the larger portion of its territory is taken. The senatorial districts may be changed by the general assembly, but only at the first session after the publication of each census by the United States Government, and their number shall not be increased. The number of senate districts remained at 44 until 1918.
1918 The number of senate districts was increased to 51.
1937 A constitutional amendment added a 52nd senate district, comprising Fulton County.
1945 The number of senate districts was raised to 54.
1968 A constitutional amendment provided that the body consist of not less than 54 or more than 56 members with the precise number to be set by the General Assembly.
1983 The Constitution dropped the minimum number but kept the maximum number of 56 members elected from single-member districts. Today the Senate has 56 members.
As with the House of Representatives, major changes were made in the 1960s as a result of Federal Court cases. Although the number of senators remained constant, the districts are no longer aligned along county borders but rather determined by population.
Records at the Georgia Archives
Holdings include records from reapportionment plans for 1964 through 1999. These include the reapportionments of 1964, 1971, 1981, and the 1991 reapportionment which was not approved until 1997. These records include for the following reapportionment cycles:
- Draft Reapportionment Plans: 1981-1983, 1991-1996
- Draft Reapportionment Maps: 1971-1974, 1981-1982, 1991-1996
- Conference Committee Reports: 1971-1972
- Copies of Legislation: 1964, 1971, 1991-1995
- Census Population Statistics, 1970, 1990-1996
- Newspaper Clipping Files: 1973-1974, 1991
- General Election Returns by County: 1994, 1998
- General Exhibits for the Voting Rights Submission to the U.S. Attorney General: 1991
Current district maps: http://georgiainfo.galileo.usg.edu/g-a_maps.htm
Interactive Senate District map:
Gray v. Sanders, 1963 court case: http://www.georgiaencyclopedia.org/nge/Article.jsp?id=h-2938&sug=y
Wesberry v. Sanders, 1964 court case: http://www.georgiaencyclopedia.org/nge/Article.jsp?id=h-2984&sug=y