Reapportionment of state’s congressional and state legislative districts to be top issue in 2022
Hensley invites citizens to weigh in on the drawing of district maps
When the General Assembly meets in January, one of the top issues on the agenda will be reapportionment of the state’s House, Senate and congressional districts. It is an arduous task done every 10 years after the U.S. Census is completed. The census figures were released last month, prompting the speakers of both the House and Senate in the Tennessee General Assembly to appoint special redistricting committees to begin the process of drawing new maps.
The purpose of redistricting is to ensure citizens in Tennessee have equal representation. This right is rooted in both the federal and state constitutions and has been ruled upon by the courts numerous times. The most famous case is the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision in Tennessee’s Baker v. Carr, which set the “one man – one vote” standard used in redistricting nationwide. The plaintiff in the 1962 lawsuit, Charles Baker, was a Republican from Shelby County, Tennessee. The lawsuit maintained that the Democrat majority in the Tennessee General Assembly failed to reapportion the state’s districts for over 60 years. This resulted in denying representation to African Americans, Republicans and citizens in Tennessee’s urban and suburban centers as the state’s population went through tremendous changes.
Another court decision, in accordance with the State Constitution, requires the General Assembly to keep counties as whole as possible while redistricting the Tennessee Senate, using minimal variances in population to ensure equal representation requirements are still met. In addition, there are court requirements in accordance with the Voting Rights Act to preserve majority minority districts. This is a district in which the majority of the constituents are of a racial or ethnic minority.
The 2020 census saw Tennessee grow 8.9 percent over the past ten years. Comparatively, the U.S. resident population grew at 7.4%. The ideal population for the 33 State Senate districts in Tennessee is now 209,419; while the 99-member House of Representative districts should number 69,806 residents each. Tennessee’s nine-member congressional districts should be reapportioned to the ideal population of 767,871 for each district.
The Tennessee population growth, however, has not grown evenly across the state. The most dramatic change has been the rapid growth in the ring of counties surrounding Davidson County, including Maury County in our Senate District. Some counties in the most western and eastern portions of our state have seen little to no growth. This means the General Assembly will have to make needed adjustments to district maps to accommodate this shift in population in accordance with constitutional and court requirements.
Lt. Governor Randy McNally and House Speaker Cameron Sexton have set up bipartisan committees to take on the task of redistricting. Both committees are committed to an open and transparent redistricting process. They have also offered the public an opportunity to use state-of-the-art software to construct their plan. Via the Senate redistricting website, members of the public will be able to access the Senate’s ESRI GIS software to create a map using the new census data. Maps created using other software solutions can be imported into ESRI for the purpose of submission.
Plans must include the whole state, comply with the Tennessee Constitution and the Voting Rights Act and stay within certain ideal population ranges. The full list of submission guidelines and training materials are available on the Senate’s redistricting page. Maps by members of the general public must be submitted by Monday, November 22, 2021.
You can find the links to the Senate redistricting sites at:
Redistricting is about providing the equal representation in which Charles Baker so rightfully took action. We will endeavor to make him proud with a fair and constitutional plan that ensures that each vote counts equally. I invite all interested parties to weigh in as we consider this important issue in the coming months.