Tag Archives: redistricting

AP stories on congressional redistricting: Big boon for GOP elsewhere; not so much in TN

Note: The Associated Press has stories out today on congressional redistricting after the 2010 census. Nationwide, Republicans used redistricting to their advantage and it practically guarantees the U.S. House will remain in GOP control after this fall’s elections. In Tennessee, redistricting basically just assured that the status quo of GOP dominance will continue.

Here’s the start of the national story, followed by the Tennessee sidebar:

WASHINGTON (AP) — Even if Democrats recruit great candidates, raise gobs of money and run smart campaigns, they face an uphill fight to retake control of the House in this year’s congressional elections, regardless of the political climate in November.

The reason? Republican strategists spent years developing a plan to take advantage of the 2010 census, first by winning state legislatures and then redrawing House districts to tilt the playing field in their favor. Their success was unprecedented.

In states like Ohio, Michigan and North Carolina, Republicans were able to shape congressional maps to pack as many Democratic voters as possible into the fewest House districts. The practice is called gerrymandering, and it left fertile ground elsewhere in each state to spread Republican voters among more districts, increasing the GOP’s chances of winning more seats.

Geography helped in some states. Democratic voters are more likely to live in densely populated urban areas, making it easier to pack them into fewer districts.

The first payoff came in 2012, when Republicans kept control of the House despite a Democratic wave that swept President Barack Obama to a second term. The next payoff is likely to come this fall when candidates once again compete in House districts drawn by Republican legislators in key states.

Note: The full story is available HERE.

By Lucas Johnson, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — While Republican lawmakers in some states may have benefited from congressional redistricting, the changes had little effect in Tennessee.

Republicans were able to give themselves a built-in advantage in House elections by doing well in the statewide elections in many states, then gerrymandering congressional districts in key states after the 2010 census. The strategy may prove to be advantageous going into the 2014 midterm elections and beyond, regardless of the political climate in November.

In Tennessee, for the most part, the redistricting solidified the Republican stronghold. The GOP occupies seven of the nine congressional seats.

“It essentially made the districts … which were already safe for one party or another to continue to be safe,” said Vanderbilt University political science professor Bruce Oppenheimer.

He noted one thing Tennessee Republicans didn't do was divide Nashville among several congressional seats, which was a relief to some Democrats. Democratic U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper, one of two Democrats in Tennessee's nine-member congressional delegation, was among those who spoke out against breaking up the 5th District.

Cooper represents most of Nashville and parts of Cheatham and Wilson counties. If the change had occurred, Cooper would have lost Wilson County, and gained heavily Republican areas in the southern part of Nashville, plus more of Cheatham County and all of Dickson County.

"Thank you for keeping Nashville together. The 'Andrew Jackson District' is intact!" Cooper said after the decision not to break up the district.

Two Republican state lawmakers, Sens. Bill Ketron of Murfreesboro and Jim Tracy of Shelbyville, had said they would consider the seat held by embattled incumbent U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais depending on the new maps. Both live in the new 4th District.

This year Tracy will challenge DesJarlais, a Jasper physician who was re-elected in 2012 despite disclosures that he had affairs with patients and once urged one of them to seek an abortion.

Tracy recently told The Associated Press that regardless of the effects of congressional redistricting, he still has a lot of ground to cover and expects a challenge in the election later this year.

"It's a challenge because it's a large area and you're trying to see as many people as you can," said Tracy, whose district includes all or parts of 16 counties in the central part of the state. "When you're running a grassroots campaign, you want to see people and let them ... know who you are."

The 4th District, which is 82 percent white, has the fifth highest poverty rate of all the Tennessee congressional districts at 12.7 percent.

Democratic U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen's 9th District in the southwest portion of the state is 65 percent black and has the highest poverty rate at 21.7 percent and the most uninsured residents at 19 percent.

While in the mostly rural northeastern part of Tennessee, Republican U.S. Rep. Phil Roe's 1st District — which is 2 percent black and 92 percent white — has a poverty rate of 14.9 percent and 15 percent uninsured.

TN congressional seats: From five swing districts to one (sorta) in 15 years

Excerpt from on a piece by Lenyard King of Gannett’s Washington bureau on the growing partisanship in Tennessee’s congressional districts – and nationally,, too, of course:

According to an analysis by Wasserman, Tennessee’s districts have grown decidedly more partisan over the past 15 years.

In 1998, five of Tennessee’s nine House members (Republicans Zach Wamp and Van Hilleary, and Democrats Bob Clement, Bart Gordon and John Tanner) held seats deemed competitive. By 2012, only Clement’s seat (now held by Cooper) remained a swing district.

The most partisan districts in the Volunteer State today are represented by Democratic Rep. Steve Cohen of Memphis and GOP Rep. Phil Roe of Johnson City, the analysis shows.

It helps explain why almost all House members from Tennessee voted with their party 97 percent of the time last year. Only GOP Rep. John Duncan of Knoxville (89 percent) and Cooper (81 percent) had relatively bipartisan voting records, according to an analysis by Congressional Quarterly.

Cooper joined a handful of moderates from both parties last week on a plan to end the government shutdown by repealing a tax on medical devices created to help fund the 2010 Affordable Care Act. The plan has gone nowhere so far.

The number of swing districts nationwide has plunged from 164 (out of 435) in 1998 to 90 last year. That means the real threat for nearly 80 percent of House members is a primary challenge, which tends to shove incumbents further toward their liberal or conservative base and further away from the middle, where compromise is usually forged.

House Kills Judicial Redistricting Bill

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A proposal to redraw Tennessee’s judicial districts for the first time since 1984 was killed on Friday when House members voted against it.
The lower chamber voted 66-28 to defeat the measure sponsored by Republican Rep. Jon Lundberg of Bristol. The companion bill was approved 27-4 earlier this month.
The plan from Republican Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey of Blountville would affect 22 counties in eight districts. The number of judicial districts has been reduced from 31 to 29.
Most of the House members against the measure said they felt if they were being dictated to by the Senate, particularly Ramsey.
“This bill came from the Senate, plain and simple,” said Rep. Bill Sanderson, R-Kenton. “They have been dictating from the get go how this session should run. Let’s draw a line in the sand. Vote no on the bill, because it’s not our bill.”
The proposal included input from the public and stakeholder groups and would have created separate judicial districts for Rutherford and Williamson counties because of population growth in the Nashville suburbs over the last three decades.
Two judicial districts in northeastern Tennessee made up of Lake, Dyer, Obion and Weakley county would be merged into a single district. Meanwhile, Coffee County would cease to have its own district and instead be folded into one with Cannon, Warren and Van Buren counties.
Ramsey has said the changes were not expected to affect the positions of existing judges, but that the elimination of two judicial districts will reduce the positions of two prosecutors and public defenders.
He estimated the cost savings of eliminating those four positions would be more than $600,000.
Rep. Tim Wirgau said before Friday’s vote that he’d like to see the measure held off for at least a year and lawmakers consider a plan where redistricting is done every two years or longer.
“Let’s put something in place so there’s a standard,” said the Buchanan Republican

Ramsey Judicial Redistricting Plan Changes 8 of 31 Current Districts

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey on Monday gave his proposal for redrawing Tennessee’s judicial districts for the first time since 1984.
The Blountville Republican’s plan would affect just eight of the existing 31 judicial districts. Ramsey said the plan had drawn the support of the association representing the state’s trial judges, who as recently as last week had opposed changing the current judicial map.
“We respect above all else the prerogative of the General Assembly to decide the judicial districts,” said Gary Wade, the chief justice of the state Supreme Court. “In one regard we are in perfect harmony, and that is to deliver to the people of Tennessee an accountable judiciary, one that works as efficiently as possible.”
The proposal would create separate judicial districts for Rutherford and Williamson counties because of population growth in the Nashville suburbs over the last three decades.
Two judicial districts in northeastern Tennessee made up of Lake, Dyer, Obion and Weakley county would be merged into a single district. Meanwhile, Coffee County would cease to have its own district and instead be folded into one with Cannon, Warren and Van Buren counties.
Ramsey said the plan was limited by not wanting to hurt grants and working groups like drug task forces that are based on the judicial districts.
“If you look at the plan we have here, I think it has minimal disruption,” he said. “There was an aggressive plan that we began with, but that was just a working blueprint.”
Ramsey said the changes are not expected to affect the positions of existing judges, but that the elimination of two judicial districts will eliminate the positions of two prosecutors and public defenders.
Ramsey estimated the cost savings of eliminating those four positions would be more than $600,000. A complete analysis on the overall cost or savings of the changes has yet to be conducted, he said.
Note: Ramsey news release below

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14 Judicial Redistricting Plans Submitted at Ramsey’s Invitation

News release from Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey’s office:
(March 8, 2013, NASHVILLE) Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey (R-Blountville) today praised both the general public as well as specific stakeholder groups for their participation in the open judicial redistricting process announced last month at a press conference at the State Capitol.
“The response we have gotten to our public call for judicial district maps is extremely encouraging,” said Lt. Governor Ramsey. “I would especially like to commend the Public Defenders Association as well as the Tennessee Bar Association for coming to the table and sharing their ideas.”
Fourteen statewide judicial redistricting proposals were submitted in accordance with the guidelines posted online. Those who asked for extensions past the original March 1 deadline were given until March 8 to submit their map.
“While I’m disappointed that the leadership of the Trial Judges Association and the District Attorney’s General Association refused to consider any changes to the 1984 map, I’m very pleased that many individual members of those groups contacted us to offer their ideas and help,” said Lt. Governor Ramsey. “Their individual input was helpful and appreciated.”
Tennessee currently has thirty-one judicial districts which determine the areas judges, district attorneys and public defenders serve. The last judicial redistricting occurred in 1984 — nearly thirty years ago.
“We came into this process with open minds and a desire to work with interested parties. The submitted maps have given us a lot of good ideas,” said Lt. Governor Ramsey. “I look forward to working with members of the House and Senate to create a map that takes into account both regional integrity and population growth to ensure Tennesseans receive the best possible service from their judges, district attorneys and public defenders.”
To be considered, submitted plans were required to use 2010 federal census data and redistrict the entire state. Regional integrity, geographic boundaries and ease of inter-county travel also had to be considered.
All maps submitted in accordance with the guideline and instructions on how to submit a judicial district plan are now available online at http://www.capitol.tn.gov/senate/judredist/judredist.html.

Ramsey: Judicial Redistricting is Good Government, Not Politics

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey says his call for the state’s first judicial redistricting in nearly 30 years is an attempt to run government more efficiently and not motivated by politics.

The Blountville Republican announced Monday that he’s requesting that the Senate Judiciary Committee examine judicial districting and encourage individuals and organizations across the state to submit redistricting plans that promote “efficiency, effectiveness and access.”

Ramsey and other backers of his initiative noted that the last judicial redistricting occurred in 1984. Tennessee currently has 31 judicial districts that determine where the area’s judges, district attorneys and public defenders serve.

“There are some districts that are way over a judge or two or three or four, and some districts are under one or two,” Ramsey told reporters at a news conference. “I think this will give … us an opportunity to figure out how to take that same money, reallocate it and make it work much more efficiently.”

Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris said that Tennessee had only five counties with 100,000 people or more after the 1980 census, and now the state has 12.

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Judicial Redistricting Talk Raises Political Fears

Republican lawmakers are planning to redraw the map of Tennessee’s court system, raising fears of gerrymandering and politicization ahead of major judicial elections next year, according to The Tennessean.
Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey and other top Republicans in the state Senate are launching an effort to cut some of Tennessee’s 31 judicial districts and realign those that remain, in what would be the first redistricting effort since 1984.
Redistricting could shift the balance on Tennessee’s courts, which Republicans have long complained are too liberal. The effort comes as judges, prosecutors and public defenders across Tennessee prepare to run for new eight-year terms.
“I hope it’s not politics,” said state Sen. Lowe Finney of Jackson, the Senate Democratic Caucus chairman. “The speaker (Ramsey) says he has good reasons for proposing this, and in the next few weeks, I guess we’ll find out what those are.”
Ramsey and other supporters of redistricting say the state’s judicial map is outdated and already riddled with political inconsistencies. A study of caseloads released Tuesday by the state comptroller estimated that Tennessee has between six and seven too many judges, but 14 districts, including Davidson County, have too few.
Proponents say a new plan could save taxpayer money and rationalize the system by combining communities with similar needs into the same districts.
But many in the judicial branch say Ramsey’s initial proposal, circulated in the fall, made little practical sense. The shakeup would smash relationships forged among court officers, lawyers and police agencies through decades of working together, they say.
“The questions are, what are we trying to accomplish and how does this plan go about trying to accomplish that?” said Allan Ramsaur, executive director of the Tennessee Bar Association.

Ramsey: Judicial Redistricting ‘Makes Sense’ and He’ll ‘Probably’ Push It

While the Legislature rigorously adheres to the “one person, one vote” rule in drawing new district lines for itself and Congressional seats within the state every 10 years, the principle has been ignored when it comes to electing judges.
The legislative rigor, of course, is based on mandates issued by judges at both the state and federal level — starting with the landmark 1962 U.S. Supreme Court case of Baker vs. Carr, inspired by the Tennessee Legislature’s failure to go through redistricting for a half-century or so.
Federal judges are not elected, but Tennessee’s trial court judges are. Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey says it’s ironic that judges have mandated redistricting for congressional and legislative elections, but not for judicial elections. Ramsey says he’s “probably” going to push a bill for redistricting this year.
Not since 1984 has the Legislature reapportioned Tennessee’s 31 judicial districts, which draw the borders for jurisdiction of judges, district attorneys general and public defenders. Legislative and congressional districts have been overhauled three times since then.

Time for Judicial Redistricting?

Tennessee’s 31 judicial districts haven’t been overhauled since 1984 and some state legislators say the lines are very outdated and should be changed before all state judges come up for reelection in 2014.
TNReport has a report on the matter:
(S)ome powerful voices in the General Assembly are saying it’s high time because while judicial maps have not changed in 30 years, the state’s population certainly has. In the past three decades, Tennessee’s population has jumped from 4.5 million to 6.4 million today.
“Rural counties have become suburban counties, and suburban counties now wrestle with issues similar to urban counties,” Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey said in a statement. “Put simply, our state is a dramatically different place than it was when the last redistricting occurred. This naturally results in inefficiency and misallocation of resources.”
Sumner County, for example, makes up the 18th Judicial District. It has a population of 163,686, according to 2011 census numbers, and has one circuit court judge assigned to it. But over in Blount County, where there are 40,000 fewer people, there are two circuit court judges.
“There are certainly some oddities,” said Sen. Brian Kelsey, R-Germantown, the new chairman of the Senate’s Judiciary Committee, which would likely tackle the issue of judicial redistricting.
Kelsey pointed to Coffee County, which makes up a single judicial district, as compared to rapidly growing Williamson County, which is part of a single four-county judicial district.

Judicial redistricting is “an issue worthy of consideration,” Kelsey said.

Sunday Column: Are TN Legislators More Conservative Than TN Voters?

Democratic President Barack Obama won a bit more than 39 percent of the vote in losing Tennessee to Republican Mitt Romney last month. After the same election, however, Democrats hold just 21 percent of state Senate seats and 28 percent of state House seats.
Why the discrepancy? The most likely suspect, in a word: redistricting. The GOP controlled reapportionment this year for the first time since Reconstruction and when the election arrived, increased the majorities they had already under the old Democratic-engineered districts.
In the Senate, Democrats were reduced to seven of 33 seats; in the House, to 28 of 99.
Now, Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey had some additional thoughts when asked about this the other day, the gist being that the Republican legislative election machinery is superior not only to its Democratic counterpart, but also to the GOP presidential campaign.
“We ran a campaign and he (Romney) didn’t,” said Ramsey. “It’s all about organization.”
But he conceded redistricting was a factor.
Both national presidential campaigns ignored Tennessee equally, Democrats writing it off and Republicans taking it for granted. So that playing field was pretty level.

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