Why Redistricting Matters
By Tennessee Advocates for Planned Parenthood | Feb. 11, 2022, 3:22 p.m.
Do you remember completing the Census in 2020?
The Census happens every 10 years to collect demographic and economic information about the people who live in the United States. The Census Bureau released the data in 2021 and now, as mandated by the US Constitution, communities across the country are redistricting to update how the lines on our voting maps are drawn to reflect the changes and shifts in population that have occurred around the country.
The districting process, more commonly known as redistricting, draws the political boundaries that determine which groups of people vote for each elected official.
The boundaries are based on population - not by land area - with each boundary being contiguous and containing as close to an equal population as possible. That is why when you look at district maps, some areas are bigger than others. In rural areas, population density is low while in urban areas, population density is high.
Each state is tasked with the responsibility of drawing the lines of their political maps. Some states choose to have a non-partisan independent committee. Some states choose to do something else.
Redistricting as a tool to suppress power
From the very inception of the United States, those in power have manipulated policy around our voting process as a way to suppress the power of the people. For example, when creating the constitution, the founding fathers created the Three/Fifths compromise which counted enslaved people as three fifths of a person but did not give them the right to vote. This allowed states with wealthy enslavers more voting power despite having less population.
Another example of those in power suppressing the voting power of the people is post-reconstruction. After Black men were given the right to vote with the 15th Amendment, those in power implemented poll tests and taxes to deny Black people the opportunity to register to vote.
In current times, those in power have used the redistricting process as their tool of choice as other methods have become unconstitutional. By drawing the lines of the maps in favor of those in power in a process known as “gerrymandering” they can dilute the voting power of the people by grouping together communities that have different interests or splitting up communities that have the same interest. This allows politicians to choose their voters instead of voters choosing their politicians.
In the United States we operate with the understanding that one person equals one vote. Your vote should not carry any more weight than anyone else's. But through gerrymandering, you can lose the weight of your vote.
Redistricting in Tennessee
Here in Tennessee, our state legislature is responsible for drawing the maps for the State House, State Senate, and US Congressional Districts. This past fall, the community had the opportunity to submit public comments and even submit their own maps.
Earlier in January 2022, the House and Senate Redistricting Committees finally released maps to the public. These maps split the 5th congressional district in Davidson County, held by Congressman Jim Cooper, into three districts. The GOP redistricting model also puts two state House incumbents in the Nashville-area, Rep. Vincent Dixie and Rep. Bo Mitchell, into the same district.
In West TN, Rep. London Lamar and Rep. Torrey Harris were merged into the same district. In East Tennessee, our champion Rep. Gloria Johnson was paired with Rep. Sam McKenzie into the same district. Each of these newly-merged districts pit Black incumbents against their Democratic colleagues, even while the plan created two new open districts in Nashville and Knoxville.
Simply put, the maps introduced do not best represent Tennessee and our communities.
We are extremely concerned that the new redistricting plans will reduce representation for Black and Brown voters, and consolidate the power of anti-choice legislators at the state and federal levels.
Our state politicians have shown that they do not believe in fair maps. What we must do is hold them accountable. We need to educate ourselves about redistricting, why it’s important, and we must advocate for fair maps. You can do so by signing the petition to Keep TN Whole here.
At Tennessee Advocates for Planned Parenthood, we are fighting for healthy communities where everyone has freedoms and rights. These rights include citizens getting the opportunity to exercise their right to vote for candidates that best represent their values. What happens in the redistricting process directly affects our communities’ ability to do just that.
Stop Those Maps!
The gerrymandered maps passed in House and Senate committees on 1/19/2022.
Planned Parenthood supporters joined over a hundred other allies on the cold steps of Legislative Plaza for a Stop Those Maps Rally on MLK Day. Click this link to learn more about the protest.
Here is an excerpt from the speech given by TAPP Executive Director, Francie Hunt from the Stop Those Maps Rally:
“...I’m not the person that will go into the nitty gritty of census tallies of population changes in all 95 counties. But what I DO know is that if we, the folks in Nashville — Black people, POC, LGBTQ people — are growing demographics, then naturally our representation at the state and federal levels should increase as well. And most certainly, it should not decrease!
It is morally wrong that the white supremacists in power are trying to take away our voice. They don’t realize that there is no map in the world that can take away our voice! The fact that they are trying to diminish Black and Brown voices is directly proportional to how much of a threat they think we are. They fear us, when they should honor us. We are inherent to the vibrancy of this state."
Where do we go from here?
Despite the public outcry against these maps, on January 20th, the State Senate voted 26-5 to pass the Congressional and State Senate maps. On January 26th, they will be voting on the State House maps.
Politicians have once again proven that they want to keep with the status quo of unfairness.
We fully support legal efforts to stop these maps and will continue to fight against the narrative. Will you join us? Sign up for our Action Alerts here or donate to TAPP to fuel our fight.
Tags: Voting Rights, Tennessee, redistricting