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Newton to benefit from redistricting
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The proposed maps can be viewed here, while the current district maps can be seen here.

Newton County stands to gain two additional state legislators in 2012, a new senator and representative, under the proposed redistricting maps released to the public Friday.

The increased representation is a result of Newton County's rapid growth during the 2000s, when the population increased from 62,000 to 99,958.

One of the most significant changes for Newton voters would be the formation of house district 113, which would be contained almost entirely within Newton County.

The district is in western Newton and contains nearly all of the new growth from the housing boom, as well as the western half of Covington. The district would have a very strong black majority.

Rep. Pam Dickerson (D-Conyers) would be the district's incumbent, which explains the small chunk of the district in Rockdale County. Her current District 95 contains northwest Newton, north Rockdale and southeast Gwinnett.

Dickerson could not be reached for comment late Friday or Saturday.

The other major shift is the addition of another state senator. Sen. Ronald B. Ramsey, Sr. (D-Decatur) would see his district grow geographically, as he loses a small portion of DeKalb and southern Rockdale, while grabbing the northwest chunk of Newton, including Oxford, Porterdale and half of Covington. Ramsey could not be reached by email late Friday.

The other newcomer will be state Rep. Steve Davis (R - McDonough), who's current district contains the middle swath of Henry County, including nearly all of McDonough. Under the proposal his district would shift northeast, leaving him with only a small part of McDonough, but giving him portions of Rockdale and Newton counties.

Rep. Doug Holt, the only multiple-term member of Newton's current representatives, said he thinks the addition of a representative and senator will help Newton. Holt's district remained largely unchanged, as he picked up the remainder of Morgan County and the northwest corner of Newton.

"I think both house and senate are a win for Newton, because the Newton voter counts for both senate districts and two of the house districts will be very significant," Holt said in a Saturday email. "Had the county been divided up entirely into smaller parcels holding no preponderance for any legislator that would've been a problem."

Sen. Rick Jeffares (R-Locust Grove) will still maintain a majority of Newton County and a significant portion of Henry County, while replacing his Walton County portion with southern Rockdale County.

Finally, Rep. Andy Welch (R-Locust Grove) saw his district shrink and stands to lose a decent amount of his Newton County holdings while gaining a slice of McDonough. He said he believes the changes concentrate representation for the Jackson Lake community between himself and Rep. Susan Holmes (R - Monticello).

He said he was happy to maintain part of Newton County under the proposed change and echoed Holt's comments that more legislators should help Newton.

"I think having more people to call upon to air concerns and seek advice or remedies or legislative solutions, I think that's helpful to you," Welch said Friday. "Sometimes it's not so much a law that needs to be passed as it as issue with an administrative agency that needs to be addressed. The more people to be able to call on behalf of Newton County, more people to be squeaky wheel, is an inherent advantage that having more representatives provides."

On a statewide level, Democrats decried the redistricting plans as harmful to minority voters and incumbents - several Democrats would be forced to run for reelection against each other - setting the stage for a future legal challenge.

Newton County will not have that issue, and the proposed maps clearly concentrate black voters in house District 113 and senate District 43.

This is the first time Georgia Republicans are in control of redistricting from start to finish, and they say the maps comply with the Voting Rights Act, designed to protect minority voting interests.

The Georgia General Assembly will enter a special session Monday focusing on redistricting, and the maps are likely to change at least somewhat. The first public hearings on the new districts are set for Tuesday.

Georgia, now the country's ninth largest state, gained more than 1 million residents and will also pick up a U.S. congressional seat this year.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.