Tag Archives: redistricting

Not exactly a short-term fix, but still worth it

Behind the Tennessean’s paywall, Mike Koprowski opines that in order to remedy the demagoguery and strife in Washington, D.C., we need to change the rules that govern how our congressional districts are redrawn.

It is not a new argument, and it’s one that has been made before on this page. The timing tries to dent the message: advocating for these changes after the 2011 redistricting invariably brings charges of “you’re just helping the Democrats be sore losers.”

It’s true that the Democratic Party’s recent losses in state legislative elections led to Republican-controlled redistricting in the most recent round. But, and not to sound all hipster about it, I was for redistricting reform when Democrats had the upper hand—which they did for a long time. Zooming out to a less myopic view dilutes the characterization that this is in any way a vengeful proposition.

Perhaps it won’t be necessary for the courts to be involved in the same way, but I’m hopeful that someday we can look back and have history show us a “Baker v. Carr moment” with regard to partisan-driven redistricting.

As it stands today, the system effectively makes meaningless the votes of anyone outside the party for which a district is drawn to heavily favor. This may or may not technically be disenfranchisement, but it can work toward a similar end. Independents feel forced to participate in a party’s primary where they really should have no reason to. And then you have the nasty business of crossover voting, whether treacherous or sympathetic.

So-called “third” parties? Forget it. Your convictions about advancing the ideals of Greens, Constitutionalists, or Libertarians are worthless too. In a Republican Party district, only Republican votes count; and likewise in a Democratic Party district. There should really be no such thing as a “branded” district.

Not only does it lead to the extremism that Koprowski decries, but it essentially means that, instead of an apportioned set of the population sending a more or less consensus candidate to Washington, a mere plurality comprising the most special interest-funded and/or gadfly-infused segment of one party gets to choose who introduces and votes on bills for the benefit of the entire district.

And you see where that gets us.

I survived redistricting

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?

Redistricting: wrangling and rustling

If you can imagine someone more excited than Steve Martin’s immortal character in the classic film The Jerk, when he announces the arrival of the new phone books, well—that’s me, with regard to new district maps. I’ll keep updating this post throughout the evening (update: putting my thoughts, and yours, into a Storify story in a different post), but for now here are some quick links to pages that house the maps themselves.

Tennessee House of Representatives (see under heading Redistricting Legislation)
Tennessee Senate (see under heading Redistricting Legislation and Maps)
Hamilton County Senate districts
Hamilton County House districts

Please note: these are proposed district lines, and have not been finalized nor approved by the General Assembly. But they are arguably close, for the most part, to the versions that will be enacted.

Dyer’s straight

The new maps being discussed in today’s redistricting meeting apparently include a move to put Dyer County into a single district (the 77th). Formerly part of the county had been included in the 82nd District, which is currently represented by Rep. Craig Fitzhugh. Here’s more from the State Gazette:

After many years, Dyer County will again be within the same Tennessee House district as Rep. Bill Sanderson (R-Kenton) announced Tuesday the Tennessee House Ad Hoc Committee on Redistricting will place all of Dyer County into House District 77.

But this comes at a cost to Obion County, which lost population during the last decade. From the same article:

Although Sanderson gained all of Dyer County and kept all of Lake County, he did have to give up a portion of his own county as Obion County was divided between him and Rep. Andy Holt (R-Dresden) of District 76. South Fulton and the northeastern part of Obion County will be included in Holt’s district.

The maps won’t be final until the General Assembly votes on them starting next week. Even then, some lawsuits are potentially in the works as Democrats, who lack the votes to influence the maps, may take to the courts to challenge what they see as unfair or unconstitutional treatment by the majority Republicans.