(January 6, 2011, NASHVILLE) – Lieutenant Governor Ron Ramsey (R-Blountville) and Speaker of the House Beth Harwell (R-Nashville) released their joint proposal to redraw Tennessee’s nine congressional districts on Wednesday to equalize populations and make them more compact and based on logical groupings of communities of common interest.
The 2010 census revealed that three of Tennessee’s districts deviated from their ideal population of 705,123 by more than 80,000 people. Federal law requires that congressional districts be exactly equal in population.
In addition to equalizing population counts, Harwell and Ramsey said their proposed map would correct decades of illogical gerrymandering by Democratic-led legislatures and better recognize Tennessee’s regional distinctions.
Under the Speakers’ proposal, all three East Tennessee districts would be entirely in East Tennessee and both West Tennessee districts would be entirely in the West Grand Division. Four districts would be anchored in Middle Tennessee and no district geographically resembles the sprawling 4th and 7th districts of the last two decades.
To meet the strict zero deviation population mandates set down by federal courts, the plan splits just eight counties, two fewer than the 10 counties split in the map approved in 2002.
Counties divided between two districts include: Shelby, Benton, Van Buren, Maury, Cheatham, Campbell, Bradley, and Jefferson. Four of those eight divided counties are predominantly located in one district, with less than two precincts separated into an adjacent district.
Shelby County, with a population of 927,644 is larger than a single congressional district by itself. For thirty years, Shelby’s population was scattered among three separate districts but under the Speakers’ plan, Shelby would be split between just two districts.
The voices of the state’s two large federal installations, Ft. Campbell and the Oak Ridge Department of Energy facilities, would become more unified under the Speakers’ map than they were in the 2002 map, with Roane and Anderson Counties, fully united in the Third District and Stewart and Montgomery Counties united in the 7th district.
Eight of the nine districts will have at populations that are at least 14% new if the map becomes law. Only the First District, cordoned into the state’s northeastern corner by North Carolina and Virginia, will remain essentially unchanged from the 2002 map.