Republicans in Tennessee have succeeded in passing a gerrymandered Congressional district map that splits the state’s largest city into three parts, with each part in a district that’s overwhelmingly white and conservative.
Gov. Bill Lee signed the plan on Sunday, effectively ending any hope for Rep. Jim Cooper, a Democrat who announced in January that he would leave Congress rather than run in one of the three new districts. Now, Nashville, with a population that’s about a quarter Black, faces the prospect of being represented in Congress by a phalanx of Trump-supporting candidates campaigning for the new seats.
As it stands, Nashville’s congressional district extends into two additional counties and has about a 24% Black population.
The new district where Cooper lives — jagging through slivers of southern and eastern Nashville as it branches in multiple directions into five other counties — would include about 11.8% Black residents out of those old enough to vote, according to Doug Himes, a House attorney. The other two would be 8.6% and 15.5% Black.
Democrats and voting rights groups have offered maps that keep Nashville whole, while grabbing the remaining voters needed from an adjacent county.
The Republican map could see final votes this week. Republican Gov. Bill Lee recently told reporters that right now, he sees “no reason that I wouldn’t be signing it,” which would cement the map for the next decade.
The push has drawn sharp condemnation from opponents who see an effort to diminish the voting impact of Nashville’s Black voters. Former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, who served under then-President Barack Obama and is the National Democratic Redistricting Committee chairman, said Republicans in Tennessee are “effectively relegating their (Nashville Black voters’) interests to the political backburner.”
Tennessee currently has no Black representation in Congress, although the western part of the state, including much of Memphis, was represented from 1975 until 1997 by Harold Ford Sr. and Harold Ford Jr.