Following Supreme Court Decision, Report Urges More Open Redistricting Process in Tennessee

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (June 27, 2019)A new policy brief released today by nonpartisan think tank ThinkTennessee finds that even small changes to the process Tennessee uses to draw its federal and state legislative districts could increase civic engagement and help avoid costly litigation challenging the legitimacy of new maps.

Nearly 60 years after handing down its decision in Baker v. Carr, the Tennessee case that paved the way for the “one person, one vote” standard, the Supreme Court today declined to set limits on partisan gerrymandering, or the intentional drawing of legislative districts to give one party an electoral advantage over another.

The Supreme Court’s ruling places decisions about partisan gerrymandering squarely with the states. Here in Tennessee, it creates an opportunity for state leaders to take the first step in evaluating Tennessee’s current redistricting process and considering new ways to improve it.

The state’s current legislative district maps appear by a number of measures to have less partisan skew than in many peer states, but the process by which the Tennessee legislature draws those maps is one of the least open in the nation, ranking 40th for transparency.

“Given today’s Supreme Court decision, many states may be reevaluating their redistricting processes. Here in Tennessee, we should consider a more open process that increases opportunities for citizen engagement,” said ThinkTennessee President Shanna Singh Hughey. “A few small changes could make a big difference.”

Studies show that increased openness in the redistricting processes can increase voter turnout, promote public confidence in the integrity of our elections and help avoid costly litigation.

ThinkTennessee’s new policy brief outlines a spectrum of policy options that would bolster citizen participation and strengthen our democracy. These solutions range from small fixes, such as applying our state’s Sunshine Laws to the redistricting process, to those that require legislative action, such as creating an advisory commission to involve a broader set of stakeholders in redistricting.