Georgia redistricting to diminish rural lawmakers, influence

ATLANTA — Redistricting is like a game of musical chairs. Some of the 180 seats in Georgia's state House and the 56 seats in the state Senate are going to get shifted to fast-growing regions around metro Atlanta and Savannah when a special session starts next week to redraw lines. And when the music stops, some lawmakers in south Georgia are going to be left without a chair. At least one state Senate district and as many as four House districts may have to shift out of middle and south Georgia, while northwest Georgia could also lose a House district, according to an analysis by The Associated Press. Lawmakers must redraw electoral districts at least once every decade following the U.S. Census to equalize populations. And it could be difficult for the majority Republicans to sacrifice Democrats and save their own members. There's only one rural white Democrat left in the General Assembly, Rep. Debbie Buckner of Junction City. There are many Black Democrats in rural areas, but wiping out their districts could invite voting rights lawsuits.

Virus cut access to courts but opened door to virtual future

Just two reporters were allowed inside a Georgia courtroom to serve as the eyes and ears of the public when jury selection began for the men charged with murdering Ahmaud Arbery. Pandemic restrictions also kept reporters and the public out of the courtroom during the sex-trafficking trial of music star R. Kelly. And in an Ohio courtroom, a federal judge relegated the press to an overflow room to listen to an audio feed for the trial of a Chinese national charged with trying to steal trade secrets from U.S. companies. A year-and-a-half into the coronavirus pandemic, courts across the U.S. are still grappling with how to balance public health concerns with the constitutional rights of a defendant and the public to have an open trial. There's no standard solution. Some courts are still functioning entirely virtually. Others are back in person. And many are allowing only limited public access.

America 'on fire': Facebook watched as Trump ignited hate

The reports of hateful and violent posts on Facebook started pouring in on the night of May 28 last year, soon after then-President Donald Trump sent a warning on social media that looters in Minneapolis would be shot. It had been three days since Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin kneeled on the neck of George Floyd for more than eight minutes until the 46-year-old Black man lost consciousness, showing no signs of life. A video taken by a bystander had been viewed millions of times online. Protests had taken over Minnesota’s largest city and would soon spread throughout cities across America. But it wasn't until after Trump posted about Floyd’s death that the reports of violence and hate speech increased “rapidly” on Facebook across the country, an internal company analysis of the ex-president’s social media post reveals.

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