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Redistricting Discussions Set to Get Formal, Go Public

Tennessee lawmakers are about to take up an issue that’ll impact elections for the next decade — where to draw legislative district lines.

State House Republicans, who plan to release their proposed new district maps to the public Tuesday, say they drew the lines in hopes of gaining the most GOP seats — and not in a way to protect incumbents against potential primary election rivals.

“As far as I know, no one drew a line based on a potential challenger,” said House GOP Leader Gerald McCormick, R-Chattanooga.

Republicans in the House expect to vote on their new map in a redistricting ad hoc committee Tuesday morning, then again in the State and Local Government subcommittee later that day with hopes of moving the bill to the full committee and chamber for a vote next week.

The General Assembly’s regular session for the year is scheduled to commence Tuesday.

Democratic leaders who say they have only a short glimpse at the complete House map say Republicans lumped their members together unnecessarily.

As many as nine seats could be up for grabs, according to House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Turner, Old Hickory. But Turner said his caucus would lose four seats in the November election in a “worst case scenario.”

“What really concerns me about this map is that the African American population, under any circumstances in (Republicans’) map, it appears they’re going to lose at least two members in a year where African American representation has grown,” said House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Turner, D-Old Hickory.

The meeting agenda shows that the committee will review House, Senate and Congressional maps, which have all be drafted behind closed doors. Leadership staff couldn’t confirm all three will be revealed and voted on at the Tuesday meeting.

“Maybe we could have been more open in the beginning but I don’t think that would have helped us in getting the job done,” said McCormick. “We tried to keep it fair and legal and we tried to keep communities together if possible. If Republicans do a good job of running things this year, then that will help us.”

The Republican-heavy Legislature is charged with dividing the 6.3 million Tennesseans evenly into 99 House districts, 33 Senate districts and nine Congressional districts. The practice is repeated every 10 years following the U.S. Census.

Area leaders appointed to work with representatives from their geographical areas and in-house legal counsel to drew the new lines, according to Republican Speaker Beth Harwell’s office. Lawmakers can vote to change the lines as the bill moves through the Legislature.

 

Williamson and Rutherford See Huge Growth, Memphis Lags in Census

New census numbers underscore a more diverse Tennessee, a struggling Memphis, and booming Williamson and Rutherford counties.

Both counties’ growth exceeded 44 percent compared with the last decennial count; Williamson’s population at the 2010 census topped 183,000; Rutherford’s, 262,000, according to census data compiled by USA Today. Rutherford County Mayor Ernest Burgess attributed the surge in his county to a high quality of life and economic opportunity.

The figures also show a growing Hispanic population in Tennessee — 1 in 10 Davidson County residents is Hispanic, the Tennessean noted — and integration gains throughout the South, according to a measure that tracks whether blacks and whites reside in the same neighborhoods.

The Associated Press explains:

Thirty-two of the (South’s) 38 largest metro areas made such gains since 2000, according to a commonly used demographic index. The measure, known as the segregation index, tracks the degree to which racial groups are evenly spread between neighborhoods. Topping the list were rapidly diversifying metros in central Florida, as well in Georgia, Texas and Tennessee.

Missing out on the overall 11.5 percent boom in the Volunteer State was Memphis, whose population experienced only the second decline since the yellow fever outbreak of the 1870s, according to the Commercial Appeal. Memphis’ population shrank by 0.5 percent to just under 647,000 residents, even though its suburbs and the county as a whole saw population growth.

Davidson County grew 10 percent to almost 627,000 residents, Knox County grew 13 percent to a population topping 432,000, and Madison County grew 7 percent to more than 98,000 residents.