ATLANTA — Georgia is growing more diverse as minority populations have seen more growth in the last 10 years, while the white population has declined, according to 2020 U.S. Census data.  

In many ways, the Georgia numbers mirror national trends revealed in the recently released U.S. Census data. 

The white population shrunk from 55.9% to 51.9%, or 5.55 million, putting Georgia in the top 10 states with the lowest population of people identifying as white. Minority populations in Georgia are increasing, with Georgia's Black population increasing by 12.5%, or more than 367,319, for a population of 3.32 million; the Hispanic population increased by nearly 2% by 269,768 over the last 10 years and Asians had the largest increase at 52.3%.

Thirty-one percent of the state's population now identifies as Black, 4.5% identify as Asian and 6.9% or more than 743,000 identified as two or more races.

Over the course of 10 years, Liberty County in southeast Georgia, along with Metro Atlanta counties Henry, Newton and Douglas, transformed from a majority white county to majority Black; Burke County in east central Georgia and Mitchell County in southwest Georgia flipped to having larger white populations from being largely Black. 

Areas in and around metro Atlanta saw some of the largest population growths in the state, many of them by more than 10 percent.

Georgia counties along its northern border have some of the states highest white and majority white populations including Dade, Fannin, Union and Towns county which all have an over 90% white population. Brantley in south Georgia also has majority white population.

Just under half of Georgia’s 159 counties report a Black population of less than 25 percent.  Black populations are more concentrated in counties in near metro Atlanta, southwest Georgia near Albany and east central Georgia near Augusta, which is now the second largest city in Georgia. 

With the release of new census data, the state's political district lines are redrawn every 10 years. On a state level, Georgia has 56 senate districts and 180 house districts, both comprised of a majority of Republicans. The state's redistricting committee is also Republican dominated, with 10 of 15 state Senate members being Republican, and 13 of 18 state House members being Republican.

Redistricting, historically, has been a partisan issue.

"Our districts will be larger than they have been previously...but both parties, when they're in power, they both put their thumb on the scale," said Cuffy Sullivan of the nonpartisan nonprofit group Fair Districts GA, which advocates for fair redistricting processes in Georgia. "What we've seen is there's been some packing in the minority districts which means there are more than there ought to be which means that voting power has been diluted from other districts."

Areas that have seen an increase in minority population, including areas that flipped from Republican to Democrat in the 2020 elections (Cobb, Gwinnett, Henry, Rockdale and Douglas counties) will likely be targets for redistricting, as minority populations typically vote Democrat. 

"The Atlanta cities' suburbs and exurbs is where so much of the growth has happened. What we're seeing is rural white Georgia is shrinking and kinda more multi-cultural diverse cities have grown," Sullivan said. "I think we can all agree Georgia is a swing state right now and we certainly have the diversity, so I'm hoping that the districts reflect this new reality, the numbers are pretty stark." 

But legislatively, there's nothing compelling the redistricting committee to consider the growing diversity in Georgia. 

Democrats across the country have pushed for Congress to approve a new Voting Rights Act, H.R.1 (For the People Act) and H.R. 4 Voting Rights Advancement Act), and those proposals would reinstate pre-clearance provisions, requiring areas with a history of voting discrimination to receive approval from the Department of Justice prior to any voting change, including redistricting.

“One of the provisions of the Voting Rights Act that would be restored is pre-clearance, which states any maps that are drawn have to take into account race and communities of interest,” said Congresswoman Joyce Beatty, D-OH, during an Aug. 11 event hosted by Fair Fight Action, the voting rights organization founded by Stacey Abrams. “It makes the difference for having adequate or equal representation because if you don’t, you dilute the minority voting populations, and we can’t vote for people who look like us and you don’t have a congressional Black caucus. You lose representation of people who look like you and I.”

Alabama demographics shift 

Similar to Georgia's growing trends in diversity, Alabama saw a decrease of its white population by 1.7 percent with whites making up 64.1%, or 3.22 million, of the state’s 5.024 million people, though the state's overall population growth is much slower than Georgia. 

The Black population saw a 3.6% increase, with Black people making up 25.8%, or nearly 1.29 million, of the state's population. The state also saw a large increase — 43% — in the Asian population, which makes up about of 1.5% of the state's residents. 

Counties that saw the largest increase in Black residents are Marshall County which saw an 65.5% increase, Shelby County saw a 39.6% increase, Limestone County saw a 27.6% increase and Lee County saw a 24% increase; Winston and St. Clair counties also saw more than a 20% increase in the Black population.   

Overall, south Alabama's Baldwin County, located just east of the city of Mobile, saw one of the largest population growths in the state, more than 27%, adding more than 49,500 additional residents. North Alabama's Limestone County near Huntsville, which is now the state's most populous city, increased its population by by 25% to 103,570 residents. 

Alabama's state legislature consists of 35 senate districts and 105 house districts and is also dominated by Republicans.  

Alabama is expected to join other states in calls for special legislative sessions in the coming months to address redistricting in their respective states as new district maps must be completed by the time of Spring 2022 primary elections. 

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