News release from Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey’s office:
Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey today announced the online release of Tennessee’s new state Senate district maps with street-level detail. The release is an unprecedented step in the history of redistricting in Tennessee and gives the general public access to the same information as county election officials.
“The first Republican redistricting process was not just fair and legal — it was also open and honest,” said Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey. “Technology has given us the opportunity to distribute information quickly, efficiently and with little cost to the taxpayer. The new districts belong to Tennessee citizens so it is important for us to make the new maps widely available as soon as possible.”
Using Google’s publicly available Maps application, the Office of Legislative Information Services has created a map that displays Tennessee’s new redistricting data in a clean, detailed and easy-to-use fashion. Citizens now have the ability to find their own district as well as explore districts statewide.
This year’s redistricting has been the most open, interactive and transparent redistricting process in Tennessee history. In September, Lt. Governor Ramsey opened the redistricting process, soliciting map proposals from the general public. Any Tennessean with access to a computer and an internet connection had the ability to participate in the redistricting process.
House of Representatives Statewide House district map is HERE. Davidson County House district map is HERE. Hamilton County House district map, HERE. Knox County House district map, HERE. Shelby County House district map, HERE. Senate Statewide Senate map is HERE. West Tennessee Senate map, HERE. Middle Tennessee Senate map, HERE. East Tennessee Senate map HERE. Davidson County Senate map, HERE. Hamilton County Senate map, HERE. Knox County Senate map, HERE. Shelby County Senate map, HERE.
House Speaker Beth Harwell and Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey are urging citizens to submit proposals for changing the boundaries for state legislative districts, while the Tennessee League of Women Voters is holding a contest for plan submissions.
But there almost certainly will be a big disconnect between any plan that the Republican-controlled Legislature will approve and any plan likely to win part of the $4,000 in prizes offered by the League for the best plans submitted.
The League’s rules declare a preference for “competitiveness” in districts, meaning those districts are not stacked with voters deemed to prefer one political party over the other. League President Margie Parsley says she doesn’t think districts should be designed with incumbents in mind.
But Republican legislative leaders acknowledge that incumbent wishes will be a factor in drawing the lines for state House, state Senate and U.S. House Districts, and so will the partisan makeup of voters in a given area.
That would be in accord with past practice when Democrats controlled the Legislature. Accommodation of incumbent preferences and partisan packaging has made for districts of strange shapes in the past and probably will in the future. That would violate the League contest rules calling for “compactness” of districts where possible.
To illustrate what districts might look like without partisan makeup and incumbent protection in mind, the News Sentinel has put together sample maps. They were drafted by Steve Ahillen, data and Sunday editor, using widely available software.
(Note: Sample congressional map HERE; House and Senate maps HERE)
The Tennessean has a news story, an editorial and two op-ed pieces in Sunday editions on the possibility of the 5th Congressional District being carved into chuncks to improve the prospects for a Republican unseating Democratic U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper
This follows earlier publicity over the possibility that notably included publicly-displayed opposition to the notion from Mayor Karl Dean and Cooper.
The focus of Chas Sisk’s news story is that the scenario isn’t likely to happen because such a move could put Republicans in danger. It begins thusly: Democrats’ best hope to avoid a split of Nashville’s main congressional district may be Republicans’ self-interest, experts on redistricting say.
Federal law appears to let Republican leaders divide up Davidson County and lump its voters into primarily suburban districts, as some Democrats fear. But doing so might weaken the GOP more than Democrats by leaving them with slender majorities that would be difficult for them to defend in elections in which Democrats hold the upper hand. The editorial opines that ‘taking a hatchet’ to Davidson County’s congressional representation would be a bad thing to do.
On the op-ed front, Steve Brumfield’s piece is summed up by a headline saying Republicans will do what’s best for the community and suggests that the carving would not be the best thing. Excerpt: Tennessee Democrats such as Cooper and Dean clearly are concerned about the possibility of losing a seat in Congress, after losing two last year. But the extent to which Nashville would be gutted is unprecedented and carries real economic and social concerns beyond party politics. In the past, Republicans as well as Democrats saw the wisdom in keeping the state capital intact. Why tamper with that?
Last, but surely not least, state Demcoratic Chairman Chip Forrester uses his op-ed space to denounce the idea and take a swipe at Senate Republican Caucus Chairman Bill Ketron. (The carve-up plan cited by Cooper and Dean was drafted by a blogger, who sent Ketron a copy. It has been dubbed the ‘Ketromander’ plan.) Excerpt from Forrester: Ketron is the attention-loving, tea party state senator from Rutherford County who sponsored the unpopular new voter ID law. He has fought to take away rights from teachers, workers’ groups and minorities. And on the more ridiculous side, Ketron even thinks Tennessee should start minting its own currency.
Now he wants to be your congressman. And he may have the influence to do it.
A couple of notes: Ketron says he’s not heading up the Senate Republican redistricting committee and the members named by Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey — Ketron, Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris and Senate Speaker Pro Tempore Bo Watson — as co-equal. Ramsey sits in on the meetings, he says.
The blog Red Racing Horses, which featured the ‘Ketromander’ plan, also has a somewhat more logical speculative plan for Tennessee congressional districts, HERE. For the 5th, it keeps Davidson County basically intact, coupling it with Cheatham County and the northwestern part of Rutherford (including Smyrna, where some Democrats live.) The rest of Rutherford — incuding Ketron’s Murfreesboro home — is in the newly-aligned, much more compact 4th District.
If you are a hopeless political junkie and want to draw districts for amusement, try Dave’s Redistricting HERE. (Yes, I have made a few amateurish efforts, but have a hard time with the coloring. My congressional map bears some similarity to the non-Ketromander Red Racing Horses map.)
The authoring blogger has a footnote to the map: “I believe that safeguarding all 7 GOP seats is worth not going after Cooper. Remember PA’s 2000 redistricting? The GOP thought they had a good plan, didn’t they? Not so good after all. That is what could happen in Tennessee if the GOP gets too aggressive in redistricting.”