Do the state's new congressional maps pass constitutional muster?

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Good morning, readers.

This week, both chambers of the Republican-dominated Tennessee General Assembly gave their final blessing to a new congressional redistricting map.

Nashville-Davidson County will now be split into three separate districts, pending Gov. Bill Lee's final approval, which he said he will give.

The threat of this division loomed for months, and the decision had some major repercussions, most notably, U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Nashville, announced his retirement. He has represented District 5, which now includes all of Nashville, since 2003 and he also served in Congress for 12 years in the 1980s and 1990s.

The new map creates a political advantage for Republicans, who could go from having seven of nine U.S. House members to eight of nine. Cooper said he explored the option of a lawsuit, but conceded: "There’s no way, at least for me in this election cycle, but there may be a path for other worthy candidates."

However, USA TODAY Network Tennessee columnist Keel Hunt, author of three books on state politics and culture, thinks the new map is worthy of a court challenge.

He came to this conclusion after interviewing attorney Harris Gilbert, who famously worked on the landmark Baker v. Carr decision of the 1960s that established "one man, one vote."

"I asked if he believes this latest scheme is ripe for a court challenge, and he replied 'Yes, I do'," Hunt wrote.

Not so fast, argues fellow columnist Cameron Smith, a former political attorney who has advised state and federal officials.

Supreme Court cases, as recently as 2019, say "drawing lines to favor one party or another isn’t sufficient to spark constitutional review," Smith writes.

In other words, "Tennessee Democrats won’t like it, but they’re not entitled to two majority-Democratic United States congressional districts."

Scroll to read Hunt's and Smith's point and counterpoint and let me know what you think. Whose argument persuaded you most?

You will also find an editorial from The Tennessean Editorial Board thanking Cooper for his public service and for serving as a model of civility that his successor should follow.

Other opinion columns highlighted in this week's newsletter:

Send me your ideas, requests, questions and commentary. Thank you for reading.

David Plazas is the director of opinion and engagement for the USA TODAY Network Tennessee. Email him at, call him at (615) 259-8063 or tweet to him at @davidplazas.

This article originally appeared on Nashville Tennessean: Do the state's new congressional maps pass constitutional muster?

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