Difference between revisions of "Redistricting in Tennessee"

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*[[Tommie Brown]] and [[JoAnn Favors]]
*[[Tommie Brown]] and [[JoAnn Favors]]
Additionally, two incumbent Democrats had each been paired with a Republican incumbent in districts that favor the GOP. <ref name="wow2"/>
Additionally, two incumbent Democrats had each been paired with a Republican incumbent in districts that favor the GOP.<ref name="wow2"/>
*[[Bill Harmon]] (D) and [[Jim Cobb]] (R)
*[[Bill Harmon]] (D) and [[Jim Cobb]] (R)
*[[Eddie Bass]] (R) and [[Vance Dennis]] (D)
*[[Eddie Bass]] (R) and [[Vance Dennis]] (D)

Revision as of 15:20, 24 February 2014

Redistricting in Tennessee
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Redistricting on PolicypediaState legislative and congressional redistricting after the 2010 CensusState-by-state redistricting procedures

This page is about redistricting in Tennessee. The Volunteer State went into the 2010 Census with nine seats and emerged with nine.

The 2010 midterms gave Tennessee Republicans the governorship, control of both the state's House and Senate, and seven of nine Congressional seats, making 2011 the first year in the state's history when the GOP would control redistricting.[1]

With that boon, Republicans weren't necessarily in a hurry. Citing the April 2012 deadline and the fact that Tennessee couldn't expect to receive detailed data from the Census Bureau until the end of April, Lieutenant Governor Ron Ramsey speculated his party would wait until the beginning in 2012 to handle the actual drawing of new boundaries.[2]

With the possibility that an entire session might come and go before the lawmakers addressed apportioning seats, 2011 looked like it might instead focus on legal and policy debates over the process. One GOP state Senator, the 32nd District's Mark Norris, filed four bills, SB0001 - SB 0004, all focused on redistricting, each seeking to clarify or update a section of the Tennessee statutes before any maps were drawn.[3]


Tennessee's legislature enjoys substantial latitude in drawing boundaries, provided they adhere to a few rules concerning contiguous districts and the avoidance of gerrymandering. Facing mountains of work on the state's budget, legislators considered pushing the entire process back until 2012.[4]

Historically, the state did not conduct any redistricting at all until a court case mandated it in 1962.[1]


On June 16, 2011, a Republican-led committee began redrawing the districts. One legislator involved was House Representative Gerald McCormick (R), who said Middle Tennessee would likely gain seats while Upper East and West Tennessee would likely lose districts.

Governor Bill Haslam (R) said he would have "zero" impact on the redistricting process in 2011-12.[5]

Census results

The area around Nashville grew the most, with the actual city increasing 10% and the neighboring cities of Clarksville and Murfreesboro swelling 29% and 58%, respectively.

Still, some areas shrank, such as Memphis. Overall, Tennessee grew 11.5%. The Republican wave in 2010 was good to Tennessee's GOP, and the midterm, which delivered the governorship to the party, followed on years of a steady red trend. Perhaps the real story of redistricting Tennessee in 2011 would be that the GOP controlled the process for the first time since Reconstruction.

Congressional maps

Lieutenant Governor Ron Ramsey (R) discusses redistricting in July 2011.
Proposed Congressional redistricting map from January 2012.

Prior to 2010, the Congressional delegation was 5 Democrats and 4 Republicans.[6] After the 2010 elections, Republicans held a 7-2 advantage. With a trifecta in Tennessee government, questions surrounded whether the GOP would attempt to create a map favorable toward achieving a Congressional representation of 8 Republicans. To do that, the new map would have to squeeze out Democratic Congressman Jim Cooper.[7]

Early talk was that Rutherford County would be drawn into the 4th Congressional District, instead of the 6th District where it resided. If so, that could have created a Republican primary between U.S. Rep Scott DesJarlais and State Senator Bill Ketron (R). The 6th District was represented by Diane Black, who defeated 26-year Democratic Rep Bart Gordon in November 2010. Chip Forrester, chairman of the state Democratic Party, said, "it's obvious that Bill Ketron is bucking to run for Congress. His demeanor and legislative agenda made that abundantly clear last session."[8]

Rutherford County could have been the beneficiary of a new district entirely contained within the county.[9] Rutherford County increased its population by 44 percent from 182,023 in 2000 to 262,6000 in 2010.[10]

Speculation also pointed to the possibility that Republicans could target Jim Cooper's district in Nashville. One way of doing that was to split Cooper's district by taking parts of Davidson County, Wilson and Cheatham counties.[11] Cooper and Nashville Mayor Karl Dean made public announcements in August 2011 criticizing the possibility that Davidson County could be split among three Congressional districts.[12] Steve McDaniel, chair of the House Redistricting Committee, said there is no law that requires congressional districts to cover an entire metropolitan area.[13]

Map introduced

The Tennessee General Assembly introduced the new congressional map on January 6, 2012. The draft map included seven safe Republican seats and two safe Democratic districts. "My Congressional district looks good, better than I expected," said Jim Cooper (D), U.S. House representative.[14]

Map passed

The Tennessee House of Representatives passed a new congressional map on January 12, 2012 by a vote of 68-25.[15] The Tennessee State Senate followed on January 13, 2012 with a 23-10 vote in favor of the map.

Signed by governor

On January 26, 2012, Governor Bill Haslam (R) signed the congressional redistricting map into law.[16]

Legislative maps

Possible scenarios

  • Northeastern Tennessee saw population growth, particularly in Washington County where the number of individuals increased by 14 percent to 123,000. Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey (R) said three Senate districts could shift when redistricting was completed.[17]
  • According to Matthew Hill (R), who was overseeing the redistricting effort for northeast Tennessee, said in July 2011 that Washington County would be evenly divided with two state representatives.[18]
  • Shelby County could have its Senate representation cut from 5 to 4 senators.[19]

Proposed maps

Figure A: Proposed State House redistricting map from January 2012.
Figure B: Proposed State Senate redistricting map from January 2012.

In early January 2012, the Republican leadership in the state legislature released proposed maps for the state senate and state house (See figures A and B).[20]

State Senate

The proposed senate map drawn by Republicans would likely eliminate one incumbent Republican and one Democrat -- current minority leader Jim Kyle.[21]

  • Republicans Kerry Roberts and Jim Summerville were combined in the 25th District. The 25th was not up for election in 2012, therefore, Roberts would be out of office after the election unless he moved. "[Roberts] basically has been redistricted into oblivion," Nashville political analyst Pat Nolan said.[22]
  • Jim Kyle was in district 28 with Brian Kelsey (R). Kelsey was not up for election in 2012, but Kyle's term was up and therefore he likely could not run for re-election if the map was implemented.[20]

There were two districts with no incumbent.

Map passed

The map was passed by the Tennessee State Senate on January 13, 2012. The final version had one dramatic change from the first draft -- it did not eliminate Jim Kyle's seat. The new map paired him with fellow Democratic incumbent Beverly Marrero.[23]

Map signed

The map was signed by Governor Bill Haslam (R) on February 9, 2012.[24]

State House

The proposed map drawn by Republicans would possibly end the careers of at least six incumbent Democrats while creating six new districts that were open without any current resident legislator. A total of eight incumbent Democrats were paired in the same district in the proposed map (figure A). The Democrats paired into single districts were:[20]

Additionally, two incumbent Democrats had each been paired with a Republican incumbent in districts that favor the GOP.[21]

The state house map was approved by committee hours after initial introduction on January 4, 2012.[20]

There were 13 total majority-minority districts -- the same as the map implemented in 2002.[21]

Democrats immediately threatened with a lawsuit in the hopes of altering the districts. "We’re headed to court," House Democratic Caucus chairman Mike Turner said. "There’s no doubt about that—unless something happens and the Republicans want to sit down and talk."[25][26]

Map passed

The Tennessee House of Representatives passed its redistricting map on a 67-25 vote. Democrats proposed an alternative map that was rejected by the Republican majority. Republicans tweaked the map to preserve the seats for three Democratic incumbents -- Sherry Jones, Eddie Bass and Harry Tindell.[27] "We understand to the victor go the spoils. We did not have the votes, and we knew that, and we just tried to make the best of the situation," said House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh (D).[28]

Map signed

The map was signed by Governor Bill Haslam (R) on January 26, 2012.[16]

Public input

Beth Harwell (R), Speaker of the House, said the legislative website would allow public comment on suggestions for maps sometime after Labor Day. Democratic Party Chairman Chip Forrester accused the Republicans of being secretive of the redistricting process.[29]

Lieutenant Governor Ron Ramsey said in August 2011 that the state would put an “unprecedented” amount of information on a state website, which would help create a more efficient process and engage the general public. The public had until November 1 to submit a map to the Office of Legal Services.[30]

Citizen activism

Redistricting competition

The League of Women Voters followed trends from other states and launched a statewide contest that ended on October 24, 2011. The contest, called "TN Redistricting: Map It Out!" offered $4,000 in prizes.[31]

The League of Women Voters sponsored redistricting contest ended with a winner expected to be announced on November 17, 2011.[32] Earlier in the month the deadline passed for citizens to submit proposed plans to state officials.[33]

Meanwhile, the Tennessee Black Caucus was preparing for a possible lawsuit, pending the ultimate outcome of the new maps. state representative G.A. Hardaway (D), president of the caucus, said the Republicans were locking minorities and women out of the process.[34]

Legal issues

On March 16, 2012, Democrats filed a lawsuit against the Republican-drawn senate redistricting maps.[35] The suit argued that the Tennessee State Senate map unnecessarily split too many counties. The implemented map split eight counties while a General Assembly Black Caucus map would have split five.[36]


Lieutenant Governor Ron Ramsey said the legislators would likely vote on a map in February 2012.[37]

Legislators were unlikely to reveal early versions of maps until January 2012.[29]


Figure 1: This map shows the Tennessee Congressional Districts after the 2000 census.

Despite the fact that the Tennessee Constitution required the state to redistrict at least every 10 years, it allowed the redistricting of 1901 to stand for over 60 years. The state had a great deal population of shifts during that time period, leaving districts greatly unequal by the 1960s. The major change was from rural to urban areas, yet rural voters retained a majority of the power.

With population disparity growing, a number of groups, including the League of Women Voters, initiated the landmark Baker v. Carr case. Although it was initially defeated in state court, it eventually reached the U.S. Supreme Court, who, in 1962, ruled that reapportionment was justiciable, allowing the courts to intervene.

Following this decision, the Tennessee General Assembly held a special session to adopt a new redistricting plan. The plan, however, remained greatly unrepresentative, and the courts ordered them to offer a new plan by mid-1963. The legislature failed to meet this deadline, and the courts had to step in.

This ultimately led to the 1965 constitutional convention, where a new provision allowing urban counties to be split into districts was adopted. This change from at-large elections allowed urban counties to be equal in population to rural ones. The legislature adopted a new redistricting plan in 1966, which was still unequal, but much closer than it had been for many years. The legislature attempted to redraw Congressional boundaries in 1965, but failed to provide an acceptable plan, leading the court to draw the districts.[38]

2001 redistricting

Figure 2: This map shows the Tennessee House Districts after the 2000 census.
Figure 3: This map shows the Tennessee Senate Districts after the 2000 census.

Deviation from "Ideal Districts"

2000 Population Deviation[39]
Office Percentage
Congressional Districts 0.00%
State House Districts 9.99%
State Senate Districts 9.98%
Under federal law, districts may vary from an 'Ideal District' by up to 10%, though the lowest number achievable is preferred. 'Ideal Districts' are computed through simple division of the number of seats for any office into the population at the time of the Census.

Lawsuits related to the 2000 Census

There was 1 lawsuit related to the Tennessee 2000 census redistricting process.[40]

  • Crone v. Darnell, 2001 WL 1589601, 176 F. Supp.2d 814 (W.D. Tenn. 2001) : Plaintiff alleged that the 2000 census showed that the current senate, house, and congressional districts were malapportioned and that qualified electors had a right under the U.S. Constitution and federal law to have new districts drawn 90 days before the primary filing deadline of April 4, 2002. It requested the court to enjoin further use of the current districts and adopt a new redistricting plan. The three-judge court found that there was no federal right to 90 days notice of new district boundaries and dismissed the complaint.

Constitutional explanation

The Tennessee Constitution provides authority to the General Assembly for redistricting in Section 4 of Article II.

See also

External links


  1. 1.0 1.1 Knoxville News "Tom Humphrey: Republicans at last control redistricting," June 26, 2011
  2. Times Free Press "Ramsey sees redistricting in 2012," December 11, 2010
  3. Tennessee Ledger, "Redistricting", January 2, 2011
  4. Jackson Sun, "Legislators may wait until 2012 to redraw TN districts", April 16, 2011
  5. Knoxville News "Tom Humphrey: Haslam sits out redistricting," July 3, 2011
  6. Metropulse "Jim Cooper Braces for Gerrymandering," July 27, 2011
  7. Washington Post "Tennessee GOP confronts tough choice on targeting Cooper," July 25, 2011
  8. DNJ.com "2012 may mean swap over to 4th District," June 22, 2011
  9. DNJ.com "Editorial: Extra House seat boosts our voice in Legislature," June 22, 2011
  10. Nashville Tennessean "Fast-growing Rutherford County expects fourth House district," June 22, 2011]
  11. WPLN "GOP, Cooper Sizing Up Potential Fight After Redistricting," July 18, 2011
  12. Nashville Tennessean "Nashville district could be divided three ways, say Cooper, Dean," August 29, 2011
  13. Nashville Public Radio "Dean Discourages Multiple Congressional Districts, Turner Says Bring It On," August 29, 2011
  14. Roll Call "Draft Tennessee Map Seeks to Keep Current Partisan Makeup," January 6, 2012
  15. The Republic "House votes 67-25 to approve Republican redistricting plan for lower chamber; Senate next," January 12, 2012
  16. 16.0 16.1 Times Free Press "Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam approves House, Congressional redistricting map ," January 26, 2012
  17. Times Net "Ramsey says NET Senate districts may be shifting," June 18, 2011
  18. Timesnews.net "Hill pledges redistricting to be 'based on numbers'" July 5, 2011
  19. WMCTV "Shelby County could lose lawmakers after redistricting," July 31, 2011
  20. 20.0 20.1 20.2 20.3 Knoxville News "GOP state House, Senate redistricting plans unveiled ," January 4, 2012]
  21. 21.0 21.1 21.2 Knoxville News "TN House plan draws 5 black lawmakers into 3 seats," January 4, 2012
  22. Nashville Tennessean "New TN redistricting maps would give GOP advantage," January 5, 2012
  23. Memphis Daily News "State Redistricting Wrinkles Save Kyle's Seat But Continue Debate," January 16, 2012
  24. Tennessee General Assembly, "Bill Information for SB1514," Accessed April 14, 2012
  25. Nashville Scene "Democrats Threaten Lawsuit over Redistricting: 'They're Trying to Go to a One-Party State'," January 5, 2012
  26. Nashville Tennessean "TN Democrats may challenge Republicans' new district maps," January 6, 2012
  27. Nashville Scene "After Deal to Spare a Few Democrats, House Redistricting Plan Rolls," January 12, 2012
  28. Nashville Tennessean "TN House passes redistricting plan," January 13, 2012
  29. 29.0 29.1 Knoxville News "Redistricting maps may be under wraps until January," September 2, 2011
  30. The Chattanoogan "Ramsey Says Citizens Can Participate In State Redistricting Process," September 16, 2011
  31. The Tennessean "Group challenges Tennesseans to come up with redistricting plans," September 30, 2011
  32. Nashville Tennesseean "Students map out new state voting districts," November 15, 2011
  33. Knoxville News "State Sen. Mark Morris: Redistricting more open than ever," November 12, 2011
  34. WMC TV "Tennessee Black Caucus preparing for redistricting battle," October 29, 2011
  35. WRCB TV "Tennessee Democrats file lawsuit over state redistricting plan," March 16, 2012
  36. Times Free Press "Lawsuit challenges Tennessee Senate redistricting plan," March 16, 2012
  37. TriCities.com "Redistricting will change Northeast Tennessee's political landscape," July 29, 2011
  38. Policy Archive, "Reapportionment Politics: The History of Redistricting in the 50 States," Rose Institute of State and Local Government, January 1981 (pg.299-307)
  39. National Conference of State Legislatures, “Redistricting 2000 Population Deviation Table”, accessed February 1, 2011
  40. Minnesota State Senate "2000 Redistricting Case Summaries"