Tennessee Redistricting 2000

Tennessee’s Political Lineup

  1991

2001

Governor D R
State Senate 20D, 13R 18D, 15R
State House 57D, 42R 58D, 41R
US Senators 2D 2R
US Reps 6D, 3R 4D, 5R

Districting Principles 

Principle

Congressional

State Legis.

Compactness

   

Contiguity

 

+

Political subdivisions

  

+

Communities of interest

     

Cores of prior districts

    

Protect incumbents

   

VRA 5

 

+

 + = required             - = prohibited

Who’s in Charge of Redistricting?

The legislature. Generally, the majority and minority leaders in both houses prepare congressional and state legislative district plans. The governor has veto power over both plans.

Redistricting Deadline

None.

Political Landscape

The congressional plan was the result of only modest changes in 1991. Democrats controlled the process, but were unable to protect their partisan advantage in the 1994 elections, when they lost two seats that lean slightly Republican. With split partisan control in 2001, major changes are unlikely. Only one Democratic seat (Harold Ford’s CD 9) is completely safe if an incumbent were to step down.

Public Access

Tennessee does not hold statewide public hearings, although individual representatives are free to get input from their constituencies. The public can attend open committee meetings, but there is no special effort to make the redistricting process more accessible to the public. There are no plans to use the Internet. Paper maps of introduced bills may be made available in the legislative library.

Legal Issues

Tennessee’s 1992 house legislative redistricting plan was struck down in U.S. district court on equal population grounds. Tennessee tried to justify its 14% overall population variance with its need to abide by the state constitution and avoid splitting counties. The court refused to accept this argument in light of the plaintiffs’ alternative plan, which achieved a variance of less than 10% and split fewer county lines.

A new plan, enacted by the General Assembly in 1994, was subjected to three challenges: a partisan gerrymandering claim, a state constitutional claim regarding the splitting of counties and a minority vote dilution charge. The court dismissed the partisan gerrymandering and the state constitution claims but considered the vote dilution claim. The plaintiffs lost after a trial.

Irregularly Shaped District
District 3

Irregularly Shaped District
District 4

· Southeast—Chattanooga; Oak Ridge
· Includes a few isolated, rural areas
· Republican in the 1960s and early ‘70s; then a 10-term hold for Democrats; Republican since 1994
· 87% white; 12% black; 1% Asian; 1% Hispanic

· Northeast and south central
· Includes 22 counties; rural
· Local needs can take precedence over national issues
· 1992 redistricting removed some Democratic voters, contributing to the 4th electing its first Republican since Reconstruction
· 96% white; 4% black

Contact Information

  Ellen Tewes
 Deputy Legislative Attorney
 Office of Legal Services
 G-16 War Memorial Building
 Nashville, TN 37219
 615/741-3056
 615/741-1146 Fax
 ellen.tewes@legislature.state.tn.us