complaint

Read the Democratic lawsuit seeking to halt the GOP’s redistricting plan

Rep. John Mark Windle (D-Livingston), left, walks to look at a proposed House redistricting map on Dec. 17, 2021. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

A lawsuit filed on behalf of Tenenssee Democrats seeks to to halt the Republican redistricting plan for state House and Senate.

“From the very beginning, we doubted that the Tennessee redistricting process would be open and fair,” said state Democratic Party Chair Hendrell Remus. Unfortunately, Republicans also violated the law while gerrymandering our state. We’re proud to be supporting these individuals in their efforts to ensure equal representation for every Tennessean.”

Read the complaint here:

IN THE CHANCERY COURT OF TENNESSEE FOR THE TWENTIETH JUDICIAL DISTRICT

AKILAH MOORE, TELISE TURNER, and GARY WYGANT v.

BILL LEE, Governor, TRE HARGETT, Secretary of State, MARK GOINS, Tennessee Coordinator of Elections; all in their official capacity only)

COMPLAINT

Over the course of approximately two weeks in January 2022, the Tennessee General Assembly engaged in an unprecedented reapportionment of voters, redrawing state House and Senate maps to ensure maximum partisan advantage for the incumbent Republican supermajority. Redistricting decisions were made largely out of view of the public and largely without input from representatives of the minority party. These one-sided decisions denied voters any real opportunity to participate in – much less stop – fundamental changes to the process through which Tennessee voters choose their elected representatives.

Crucially for purposes of this lawsuit, the Tennessee General Assembly supermajority and Governor Bill Lee ignored the plain, unambiguous text of the Tennessee Constitution in order to enact their partisan redistricting scheme. They did so in two ways: first, by dividing more counties than necessary to create House districts with roughly equal populations, and second, by numbering state senatorial districts nonconsecutively. These actions both contravene the language of the Tennessee Constitution.

Regardless of the supermajority’s motives, the Tennessee General Assembly’s and Governor’s redistricting maps are facially unconstitutional according to the text of our state’s founding document. The above-named Plaintiffs – on behalf of all voters of Tennessee – file this action seeking a swift declaration and injunction requiring that the Tennessee General Assembly and Governor immediately adopt maps that conform with the Tennessee Constitution.

INTRODUCTION

1. This lawsuit challenges the Tennessee General Assembly’s recent reapportionment of the Tennessee House of Representatives and Tennessee Senate for violating two provisions of the Tennessee Constitution.

2. First, the legislature’s reapportionment of the House of Representatives divides more counties than necessary to ensure that all districts have roughly equal populations.

3. Second, the legislature’s reapportionment of the Senate fails to consecutively number the four senatorial districts included in Davidson County.

4. County Divisions: The Tennessee Constitution prohibits legislators from dividing individual counties when creating multi-county legislative districts, and the Fourteenth Amendment to the federal Constitution requires the creation of legislative districts with roughly equal populations. The Tennessee Supreme Court has reconciled these two provisions by holding that the General Assembly must create as few county-dividing districts as is necessary to ensure that all legislative districts contain roughly equal populations.

5. The General Assembly’s reapportionment of the House of Representatives violates this constitutional mandate by creating significantly more county-dividing House districts than necessary to maintain districts with roughly equal populations. The newly-enacted House apportionment plan crosses 30 county lines, despite the fact that significantly fewer county divisions could have been achieved while also maintaining roughly equal populations in each district. The legislative history illustrates this constitutional violation, as one alternate map submitted to the legislature contained just 23 county divisions, while also achieving closer population parity than the plan that the General Assembly approved. The General Assembly’s failure to reduce county divisions in its House plan violates the Tennessee Constitution.

6. Senate District Numbering: When a single county contains more than one senatorial district, the Tennessee Constitution requires the districts in that county to be numbered consecutively. This requirement ensures that half of a large county’s senatorial districts will be on the ballot in presidential election years and half of a large county’s senatorial districts will be on the ballot in gubernatorial election years, given that even-numbered districts are on the ballot in presidential election years and odd-numbered districts are on the ballot in gubernatorial election years.

7. The General Assembly’s new Senate map creates four senatorial districts within Davidson County, including three districts that are entirely within Davidson County and a fourth district that includes a portion of Davidson County along with all of Wilson County. The General Assembly numbered these districts 17, 19, 20, and 21, ensuring that three districts will be on the ballot during gubernatorial elections and just one district will be on the ballot during presidential elections. Before enacting this map, an amendment was proposed that would have corrected this deficiency by properly numbering Davidson County’s senatorial districts. The General Assembly rejected this amendment.

8. The General Assembly’s Senate apportionment map violates the Tennessee Constitution’s express requirement that senatorial “districts shall be numbered consecutively” in counties having more than one senatorial district. Tenn. Const. art. II, Sec. 3.

9. These constitutional violations can be, and should be, corrected before the August 2022 legislative primary elections. This Court should provide the General Assembly with fifteen days to enact new apportionment plans that correct these violations, as required by T.C.A. § 20- 18-105(a). If the General Assembly fails to enact such new maps by the Court’s deadline, the Court should then “impose an interim districting plan,” as authorized by T.C.A. § 20-18-105(b). Such interim districting plan would only apply to the 2022 legislative election cycle. Id.

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Complaint filed against Harshbarger for failing to make timely stock disclosures

The Campaign Legal Center has filed a complaint against freshman Rep. Diana Harshbarger for failing to report hundreds of disclosures about stock transactions within the 45-day requirement. The Kingsport Republican’s chief of staff, Zac Rutherford, told Insider the congresswoman self-reported the transactions after realizing her advisers had failed to do so.

Here’s the release from the Campaign Legal Center:

WASHINGTON – Today, Campaign Legal Center (CLC) filed a complaint with the Office of Congressional Ethics against Rep. Diana Harshbarger for failure to comply with the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge (STOCK) Act.

In a periodic transaction report filed earlier this week, Rep. Harshbarger acknowledged over 700 trades that violate the STOCK Act due to the fact that they were not disclosed within the proper window of time. While the stocks are assets of her trust, this is not a blind trust, and the report concedes that she was notified of the transactions soon after they occurred.

“The reason we have the STOCK Act is to allow voters full, real-time awareness of interests held by elected officials that may conflict with their official duties. But we don’t currently have meaningful enforcement,” said Kedric Payne, general counsel and senior director of ethics at Campaign Legal Center. “Members of Congress cannot continue to shirk their responsibility and see a nominal fine as their only repercussion for denying voters transparency when it comes to their financial interests.”

The actions of Rep. Harshbarger follow a troubling, bipartisan trend. Already this year, CLC has filed similar complaints over violations of the STOCK Act by Sen. Rand Paul and Sen. Tommy Tuberville as well as Reps. Pat Fallon, Blake Moore, and Tom Malinowski.

This is just one more example of an elected official ignoring the STOCK Act by failing to report a large volume of stock trades and facing little consequence. Because ethics proceedings lack significant transparency, it is next to impossible to determine what consequences, if any, members who commit such violations face.

What we are witnessing is the dismantling of the STOCK Act as members wait until their annual financial disclosures to reveal stock trades and are thus not held accountable for failing to provide real-time disclosure under the law. It is clear that the current ethics enforcement system, built on a foundation of self-policing in which members of Congress are responsible for enforcing their own ethics rules for their own colleagues, is not working.

As elected officials craft laws that directly impact the lives of all Americans, the public must be able to trust that their representatives are acting in the public’s interest, and not for their own financial gain.