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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.


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