Tennessee senators approve new congressional, Senate districts; House to vote Monday

·2 min read

The divvying up of Nashville's congressional representation moved one step closer after the Senate approved the Republican-drafted redistricting plan Thursday.

In a 26-5 party-line vote, Senate Republicans approved new boundaries for the state's nine congressional and 33 Senate districts. The chamber delayed voting on a new House map until Jan. 26.

After the vote, Democrats hinted at a potential legal battle over the redistricting plan.

Senate Minority Leader Jeff Yarbro, D-Nashville, said the maps potentially dilute the voting power of minority populations in the state and unnecessarily split up counties.

Related: Davidson County redistricting split dilutes vote of Black communities, critics say. Here's why

"It's hard to imagine you don't see this in litigation at some point," Yarbro said. "I can't imagine people don't look at this and say there are legal deficiencies.

Senate Majority Leader Jack Johnson, R-Franklin, defended the maps as "fair and legal." He cited previous maps which split Shelby County into multiple congressional districts.

"We feel like the maps are legal and defensible both from a statutory and constitutional standpoint," Johnson said.

The new congressional and Senate maps

The new congressional maps split the Democratic stronghold of Davidson County into three districts. Currently, the 5th Congressional District, represented by U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Nashville, includes the entire county.

The county will be divided up into more rural and suburban districts with a decidedly Republican edge under the plan the Senate approved Thursday.

Republicans currently hold a 7-2 majority among the Tennessee congressional delegation. The new map likely helps secure an 8-1 advantage for Republicans.

Under the original plan unveiled last week, the 9th Congressional District, currently represented by U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Memphis, would have expanded to include all of Tipton County.

But the plan approved Thursday now splits Tipton between the 8th Congressional District, currently represented by U.S. Rep. David Kustoff, R-Germantown, and the 9th.

Meanwhile, the new Senate maps do not pit any incumbents against each other but shifts several districts. For instance, District 17, currently represented by Sen. Mark Pody, R-Lebanon, moves into parts of eastern Davidson County.

While in Shelby County the new Senate map appears to protect embattled Republican incumbent state Sen. Brian Kelsey, R-Germantown, who is facing federal charges.

Kelsey narrowly defeated his Democratic challenger in 2020. His district was looking increasingly competitive as voting patterns changed in the wealthy suburb of Germantown and the affluent portions of East Memphis neighborhoods.

The new map changes that. It adds the suburb of Collierville, a reliably Republican town, to Kelsey's district — it was previously in District 32 represented by Sen. Paul Rose.

The map also keeps Knoxville divided into three Senate districts as Republicans look to keep all the seats in that area.

Pody and Sen. Sara Kyle, D-Memphis, were absent from Thursday's vote. The House is expected to vote on all three new maps on Monday.

Reporter Samuel Hardiman contributed to this report.

Adam Friedman is The Tennessean’s state government and politics reporter. Reach him by email at afriedman@tennessean.com.

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This article originally appeared on Nashville Tennessean: Senate approves new redistricting maps, could see House vote Monday

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