SAVANNAH Ga. (WSAV) – Chatham County Commission Chairman Chester Ellis says Republican state lawmakers are playing political games that could put the county in the middle of a federal lawsuit.
Ellis said the controversy started earlier this week when local GOP state representatives tried to change the redistricting map. That’s after another version had already been approved and submitted by the county and school board back in January.
“We were told that if the school board and the county agreed on a map, that the legislators would approve it. It wasn’t until this week that things started to blow up,” said Ellis at a press conference Friday.
The chairman says the new map is political, favoring Districts 1 and 4 after Republican-leaning commissioners Patrick Farrel and Helen Stone complained about how their districts were divided in maps drawn up by the non-partisan metropolitan planning commission.
“I was not happy with how they had split up the islands that I represent: Dutch Island, Isle of Hope and Burnside Island,” said Stone. “They were going to cut them.”
Ellis says Republican state lawmakers have gone back on their word to leave redistricting to the county commission and school board. He believes it’s part of a larger statewide effort to suppress the vote and make districts more favorable for conservative candidates.
“We do not need for our map to go outside of the local delegation, because if we accept what was sent to me this morning — and I’m telling you I got a revised edition this morning — if we accept that, then we’re going to become part of the lawsuit that’s in federal court right now,” Ellis said, referring to a lawsuit filed by the justice department against the state of Georgia over its new voting law.
WSAV News 3 reached out to the chair of our local delegation of lawmakers, Republican Rep. Ron Stephens, but have yet to hear back from him.