Warning: autobiographical passage ahead. Ten or so years ago, I woke up one morning in a new Tennessee House of Representatives district, and it really changed some things. Actually, to be truthful, I didn’t realize it on the day it happened.
In fact, I had already picked up a petition to be a candidate for office in the district I thought I was still in, and only later realized that my intended opponent was going to escape debating me in the public square as we asked voters to choose between us. (I decided to remain a candidate in the new district, in order to learn the process so I could share with other citizens how to go about it, until another plot twist moved me to yet another House district, where I still live.)
This time around, I have watched the process with a great deal of interest, because it matters whom one’s state legislators are, and it arguably matters even more whom one’s city council member, county commissioner, school board member, alderman, etc. are. And, yes, there’s congressional redistricting that impacts one’s representation at the U.S. Capitol. For example, Cleveland is now in the Fourth District with Murfreesboro (which itself was formerly in the Sixth).
The Tennessee Democratic Party had to sit and watch as Republicans took advantage of their historic majority (#drink) and embodied the “eye for an eye” saying. If everyone involved runs, Democrats in several districts will have to choose between two of their representatives. For example, Reps. Tommie Brown and JoAnne Favors are now both in the 28th House District. Steve Steffens laments that intra-party squabbling has already commenced in Memphis.
In the end, a few deals were made that rolled back some of the most aggressive bulkheads the GOP had drawn into the maps, though their firewall looks pretty good for the next five election cycles. Reps. Sherry Jones and Mike Stewart were not forced into a primary face-off; and Sen. Jim Kyle did not get “drawn out of existence” (unlike Sen. Kerry Roberts, perhaps the lone Republican sacrifice).
Though GOP leaders like Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey tout their fairness in reapportioning voters and legislators, an objective viewpoint cannot miss seeing the victors collecting their war spoils. This cycle will continue unless a new process, such as an independent redistricting commission, is enacted. Unfortunately, the Democratic Party is the loudest voice calling for this change, and they are understandably laughed off the stage, given their history in this state. I believe independents will have to lead the charge, but there’s only one in the Legislature (and he’s not independent by choice).
No matter what, as populations shift, people will wake up in new districts every ten years.
From what I have seen on all the maps, it appears that all of my districts are the same as they were from 2002-2011. I am in Chattanooga City Council District 6; Hamilton County Commission (and School Board) District 8; Tennessee House of Representatives District 30; Tennessee Senate District 10; and U.S. House of Representatives District 3. (For the record, I was hoping that my precinct would be moved into Council 5, Commission 5, and House 28, to better unify the Brainerd community as an electoral bloc. However, compliance with the 1965 Voting Rights Act plays a part in keeping us separate.)
What about you? Are you satisfied with your new district lines?