redistricting

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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Democrat Stewart to retire from state House

Rep Mike Stewart (D-Nashville) speaks to reporters on the House floor in Nashville on May 1, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

State Rep. Mike Stewart, a former House Democratic caucus chair from Nashville, announced he is retiring from the General Assembly. Under initial Republican redistricting plans, Stewart was going to be drawn together with fellow Democrat John Ray Clemmons. But the majority party relented in a last-minute change, leaving the two incumbents in their own districts.

Here’s Stewart’s statement:

NASHVILLE — Today Mike Stewart announced in a Facebook Live appearance on the Tennessee Holler that he is not running for the state house seat he has held since 2008.  “I consider the opportunity to serve in the Tennessee General Assembly as one of the great honors of my life and I am grateful to all the people who have helped me along the way,” Stewart said.

Stewart intends to shift his political energy to protecting America’s democratic system, which is under serious internal attack for the first time since the 1850’s.  “We are facing a threat that I never expected to deal with during my lifetime; a former President and his followers attempting to invalidate a Presidential election and with it the system we use in this country to allow the people to choose their leaders.  I was one of those who mistakenly thought that President Trump was just being a sore loser when he made claims of election fraud; now it has been revealed that those claims were part of an orchestrated effort to cancel the 2020 election, thwart the will of the people and retain political control illegally.  It is the sort of thing that I expected to see only in other countries and in science fiction movies,” Stewart observed.

“As a lawyer and a person who has been deeply involved in elections for many years, I hope to do what I can to protect the democratic process in the upcoming 2022 and 2024 elections,” Stewart observed.  Specifically, I will be working with leaders around the nation to ensure that polling places are adequately monitored to prevent false claims of fraud, working to ensure that state legislatures are not controlled by anti-democratic leaders, and working to develop legal strategies to check those who continue to make false statements undermining our system of elections.”  

“Many citizens I’m talking to are feeling overwhelmed and defeated.  They grew up in the world’s most stable and admired democracy, and now see a former President, as well as Senators and Congressmen, debasing themselves on national television repeating claims they know are entirely untrue.  I plan to do everything I can to ensure that such people are not allowed to tamper further with our sacred system of elections so that the people have a fair opportunity to repudiate such irresponsible and, ultimately, immoral leadership.  Many are talking about the threat; it is time to develop concrete plans to respond to it on a state-by-state level.”

Stewart added, “I’d like to close this chapter by saying it has been a privilege to serve the people in House District 52 and I intend to continue fighting for you, as well as the rest of the country, in my new role.”

Here’s a look at the partisan breakdown of Tennessee’s new congressional districts

It all fits together somehow.

Tennessee voters in the 2020 presidential election preferred Republican Donald Trump by double digits in eight of the state’s nine congressional districts under the new maps recently signed into law.

The 2018 U.S. Senate race results are somewhat more encouraging for the minority party, as Democrat Phil Bredesen and Republican Marsha Blackburn were essentially tied in what is now the 5th District, while the GOP candidate won the 7th district by just over 1 point. But that was a somewhat unique race featuring a popular former governor and a divisive Republican congresswoman. The same year’s governor’s race may prove to be more of a guide for future performance, as Republican Bill Lee beat Democrat Karl Dean by 11 points in both the 5th and 7th Districts.

Here is a look at the Republican advantage in the newly drawn districts over four recent statewide races:

District2016 President2018 Governor2018 Senate2020 President
1st+57+53+43+54
2nd+35+28+15+30
3rd+35+29+19+32
4th+42+33+24+38
5th+17+110+12
6th+32+20+11+30
7th+17+11+1+15
8th+39+37+28+37
9th-47-44-52-48

New TNJ alert: 5th District update, logistics of Robinson proceedings, final state House maps

Sen. Ferrell Haile (R-Gallatin) presides over an Ethics Committee meeting about Sen. Katrina Robinson (D-Memphis), in Nashville on Jan. 20, 2022. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

The latest print edition of The Tennessee Journal is out. Here’s what’s in it:

— Morgan who? Trump makes surprise 5th District endorsement.

— Ouster watch: Senate to weigh whether to expel Robinson after Wednesday debate.

— Redistricting roundup: 2 steps forward, 1 step back: House GOP undoes some incumbent pairings.

Also: Advocates of right-to-work amendment get favorable internal poll results, Janice Bowling gets COVID-19, and Terri Lynn Weaver gets biblical about Nashville’s raucous tourist district.

As always, access the your copy of the TNJ here.

Or subscribe here.

Jim Cooper to retire from Congress after 5th District redistricting

U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Nashville) appears at a Senate redistricting meeting in Nashville on Oct. 18, 2021. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Democratic U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper says he won’t run for another term after Republicans split Nashville into three congressional districts.

“I am a proud Democrat who refuses to demagogue, and who chooses to be on the right side of history in order to give all our kids a better future,” Cooper said in a statement. “My votes certainly fueled our Republican legislature’s revenge.”

Here is the full release from Cooper’s office:

NASHVILLE – Today Rep. Jim Cooper (TN-05) released the following statement:

“Today I am announcing that I will not run for re-election to Congress. After 32 years in office, I will be leaving Congress next year.

“I cannot thank the people of Nashville enough. You backed me more than almost anyone in Tennessee history, making me the state’s 3rd longest-serving member of Congress. You allowed me to help millions of people while representing our state capital, as well as 30 of our state’s 95 counties.

“Despite my strength at the polls, I could not stop the General Assembly from dismembering Nashville. No one tried harder to keep our city whole. I explored every possible way, including lawsuits, to stop the gerrymandering and to win one of the three new congressional districts that now divide Nashville. There’s no way, at least for me in this election cycle, but there may be a path for other worthy candidates.

“I am announcing my decision promptly so that others have more time to campaign. I will return the individual contributions that I have received for this race so that donors can redirect them as they choose.

“I plan on finishing out my term by maintaining a high level of service to all the 760,000+ people in the 5th congressional district. A member of Congress is only as good as his staff, and I’ve had the very best talent for almost 40 years. They are a joy and a blessing. Many have gone on to great careers inside and outside of government. My 600+ interns over the years are our future leaders.

“I’ve given out my personal cell phone number (615-714-1719) to everyone, unlike almost anyone else in Congress, so that I am accessible, even during Covid. And you have called! It’s been a privilege to hear your thoughts, help cut red tape, and to assist in emergencies.

“Another way I’ve been helping is channeling $9.5 billion in federal funds to the Nashville district in just the last 20 months, far more federal money than ever.

 “Anyone who would like a detailed breakdown of this recent federal aid should contact Cara Ince in my office. And the $9.5 billion does not count the billions of dollars of federal aid that our General Assembly has rejected, or the additional funds from the Infrastructure Act (that no Tennessee GOP federal representative supported).

“Most of my work in the House — the real work of Congress gets no publicity — has been on the Intelligence, Armed Services, Budget and Oversight Committees. I serve on more committees than anyone else while maintaining a nationally-recognized level of civility and bipartisanship, even in these divisive times.

“No one is perfect, and I know I’ve made mistakes. I appreciate those who have educated me and helped me improve. But I am a proud Democrat who refuses to demagogue, and who chooses to be on the right side of history in order to give all our kids a better future. My votes certainly fueled our Republican legislature’s revenge.

“I love the intimacy of solving others’ problems. I am prejudiced, but Tennesseans are the finest people in the world. We include recent arrivals, particularly immigrants, who often have hard lives. I hate the thought that no congressional office may be willing to help them after I leave. One of my remarkable staffers, John Wood, has been a one-man Statue of Liberty for decades.

“I don’t know what the future holds but I am ready to get another job next year and make up for lost time with family and friends. I could not be more excited. Having started as the youngest congressman in America, even after my record tenure I am still only 67 years old.

“For everything there is a season, a time and place under the sun. My time in Congress is ending, but I can’t wait to start the next adventure.”

New TNJ edition alert: Tiptoeing through Tipton, Robinson’s travails, and a Merritt obit

State Sen. Katrina Robinson confers with Rep. G.A. Hardaway (both D-Memphis) after the Sente Ethics Committee recommended Robinson’s expulsion on Jan. 20, 20222. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

The latest print edition of The Tennessee Journal is out. Here’s what’s in it:

— Senate approves slightly revised maps, House votes next week. Changes include splitting Tipton County between Rep. Cohen’s and Kustoff’s districts.

— Ethics panel calls for Robinson’s Senate expulsion, Democrats protest.

— Obituary: Gil Merritt, Supreme Court finalist who threw out fleeing felon laws.

Also: Another potential GOP candidate in the new-look 5th District, Orgel gets weak-kneed over decrepit buildings in Memphis, and Lundberg gets a new office.

As always, access the your copy of the TNJ here.

Or subscribe here.

New TNJ edition alert: How the GOP’s new congressional, state Senate maps shake out in Tennessee

It all fits together somehow.

The latest print edition of The Tennessee Journal is out. Here’s what’s in it:

 — From one into three: Congressional remap cracks Dem stronghold of Nashville.

— State Senate redistricting solidifies current GOP seats.

— Read state Supreme Court nominee Sarah Keeton Campbell’s answers about finding meaning in messy legislation, how oral arguments influence appellate cases, and what she would take into consideration in appointing a new attorney general.

— Legislative roundup: Senate Ethics Committee to consider ousting a sitting member before pending legal issues come to conclusion, treasurer of anti-Tillis PAC says she registered group at the behest of Cade Cothren.

Also: A forgiveness fest between Justin Jones and Glen Casada, the Memphis police chief has her gun stolen out of her husband’s Porsche, and Bud Hulsey gets a new phone.

As always, access the your copy of the TNJ here.

Or subscribe here.

Come and knock on our door: Senate GOP would have three districts meet in Nashville (UPDATED)

U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Nashville) appears at a Senate redistricting meeting in Nashville on Oct. 18, 2021. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

The figurative white smoke is rising above the state Capitol as Senate Republicans have announced they will reveal their redistricting maps on Thursday.

The Tennessee Journal has learned the Senate preference is for a three-way division of heavily Democratic Nashville that would entail the 6th and 7th districts currently held by Republican Reps. John Rose of Cookeville and Mark Green of Ashland City, respectively, grabbing portions of the capital city. (This paragraph has been updated to show it’s Rose’s 6th, not Scott DesJarlais of the 4th District, that would move into Nashville).

Green would retain only about a third of Williamson County, the traditionally anchor of the 7th District when now-Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Brentwood) held the seat. The remainder would become part of the new-look 5th District that has been held by Democratic Rep. Jim Cooper since 2003.

Rapidly growing Rutherford County would remain entirely within the 4th District, which would likely require an overall westward migration of the seat’s boundaries. DesJarlais is from the eastern side of the district.

The House GOP is scheduled to make its draft congressional maps public on Wednesday amid comments by House Speaker Cameron Sexton that Nashville could be split into two or three districts.

The two chambers have been understood to be at odds about how exactly to go about gaining an eighth seat, so the final shape of the plan could still change.

Sexton to AP: The Nashville split is on

Rep. Cameron Sexton presides over his first session as House speaker on Aug. 23, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

House Speaker Cameron Sexton is confirming plans to carve up the heavily-Democratic 5th Congressional District in Nashville to give Republicans a chance to pick up an eighth of the state’s nine congressional seats.

According to Associated Press reporters Kimberlee Kruesi and Jonathan Mattise, Sexton wouldn’t say exactly how many districts would split the state’s second-largest county.

“I won’t give an exact number. but it’s either two or three,” Sexton told the AP.

“I’ve never bought into the approach that having multiple people represent a big city is bad thing,” he said.

Democratic Rep. Jim Cooper has held the seat since 2003.

UPDATE: Andy Sher at the Chattanooga Times Free Press spoke to Sexton about whether plowing Democrats into currently safe GOP seats could make future races competitive.

“Well, everyone’s entitled to their opinion, which is fine. . . . Whether or not it does what people say it does, only time will tell that,” Sexton told the paper.

“It’s not unprecedented in our state where those large urban areas and congressional areas have been split . . . . We think we can do it, and we think it will be constitutional if we go that way,” Sexton said.

New TNJ edition alert: Congressional redistricting on tap, Robinson seeks to avoid prison time

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

It’s The Tennessee Journal’s first print edition of the year! Here’s what’s in it:

 — House to release congressional maps, but Senate mum on plans.

— Nashville is reportedly a finalist, but how far will mayor push for convention if GOP breaks up his brother’s U.S. House seat?

— From the courts: Robinson lawyers argue loss of Senate seat would be punishment enough for fraud conviction; Kelsey can’t use money campaign fundraiser to pay defense attorneys.

— State casts doubt on whether pharmacy benefit manager bill does what sponsors said it would do.

Also: Boyd runs Antarctic marathon, ECD halts China recruiting, Tennessee Waltz figure rejected for Memphis job, and Faison’s referee pantsing.

As always, access the your copy of the TNJ here.

Or subscribe here.