What’s Happening Today:
- At noon CT, the U.S. Census Bureau will release the 2020 Census redistricting data to all 50 states, which will enable the political map-drawing process to officially begin.
- With this data in hand, states can begin drawing congressional and state legislative maps with districts that are equal in size and provide fair representation for the people of this country.
- Though many states have already been engaging in the beginning stages of the redistricting process — including holding public hearings, convening commission meetings and hearing from community members — Tennessee is not one of them.
- The Census data released today will likely confirm that the country is getting younger and more diverse and is increasingly concentrated in urban and suburban areas.
- That trend likely scares Republicans, which is why they may, once again, rig our political maps and secure another decade of uncontestable power through gerrymandering — not through voters.
What’s At Stake:
- It is important to understand redistricting within the broader fight to protect our democracy.
- The Tennessee legislators, who opposed voting by mail in a pandemic and have killed numerous efforts to expand access to voting, are the same legislators who will be drawing electoral maps over the next few weeks and months.
- Make no mistake: gerrymandering is a form of voter suppression. And redistricting could be the next step in Republican attempts to suppress the ability of voters, particularly people of color, from participating in our democracy and influencing public policy.
- In Tennessee, Republicans currently control a supermajority of seats – more than two-thirds – in both chambers of the General Assembly. This super majority gives them absolute, unchecked political power.
- No doubt, Tennessee is a Republican state, but their stranglehold on political power is more a result of gerrymandering than policy preferences.
- Skeptical? Consider this: In the last three presidential contests, Democratic candidates in Tennessee won an average of 36% of the vote share.
- Clearly, more than one-third (33%) of voters in Tennessee favor Democrats, but, in the General Assembly, Democrats control far less than a third of the seats, which would break their supermajority.
- In the Tenn. Senate, Democrats have 6 seats out of 33 — 18%
- In the Tenn. House, Democrats have 26 seats of 99 — 26%
- A ban on partisan gerrymandering would stop politicians from gerrymandering their way to power, which is precisely why Republicans in Congress are blocking pro-democracy legislation.
- Fair maps – more districts where either a Democrat or a Republican could win – mean that voters decide who leads, not the map drawers.
- It is not an exaggeration to say that the maps drawn this year will shape the next decade of politics in Tennessee – for better or for worse, for fairness or more extremism.
The Redistricting Landscape:
- With today’s data release, the redistricting process is now underway in Tennessee.
- Democrats in the state legislature signed a letter this week calling for a transparent, community-driven process to map new political districts.
- To fight for fair maps this cycle, Tennessee Democrats will:
- Engage the public;
- Hold map-drawers accountable; and
- File litigation, if necessary.
- Success means stopping politicians from gerrymandering themselves into an artificial supermajority and building fair districts that are responsive to the will of voters.