Tennessee’s 95 counties are expected to undergo redistricting once they’ve received 2020 Census county-level population data this fall, and civic groups across the state say public interest in the redistricting process is increasing. Redistricting Counsel at the Brennan Center’s Democracy Program Yurij Rudensky says state lawmakers call the shots on how to divvy up the districts. Rudensky recently spoke at a virtual meeting on fair representation hosted by the Tennessee League of Women Voters.
The League and other civic groups argue that counties have no clear criteria for map drawing or fair representation, and say that despite steps to better inform the public, such as an online redistricting guide created by the state comptroller’s office, there are few opportunities for residents to view drafts of state legislative and congressional maps or give timely input.
Population flight in rural West Tennessee combined with major urban growth in cities such as Nashville are expected to trigger significant shifts in the state’s legislative districts. Republicans already hold seven of nine Tennessee congressional districts, and some experts say redistricting could help Republicans gain another seat in Congress and erode national Democratic control. Rudensky says the Brennan Center’s 50-state guide to redistricting can help residents parse out an otherwise complicated process that he says is unlikely to change in the near future.
According to the Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury’s office, U.S. Census numbers aren’t expected to be prepared until September because of federal delays, making it a challenge to forecast how districts will be drawn at the congressional and legislative levels based on the state’s population trends.