A group of voters and civil rights organizations are filing a lawsuit challenging Tennessee’s congressional and state senate maps as unconstitutional racial gerrymanders.
The 49-page complaint accuses the state’s Republican-led Legislature of diluting the power of voters of color in the Memphis and Nashville areas by making “the conscious choice to manipulate the population of the Districts by race.”
“The 112th Tennessee Legislature’s redistricting plans for the state’s Congressional and State Senate districts makes unlawful use of race and subordinates traditional redistricting principles to race, thus violating the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendment rights of Black voters and other voters of color,” the lawsuit states.
The groups said the lawsuit was filed in federal court in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee. The lawsuit has not yet appeared on the court’s docket as of early Wednesday afternoon.
Following the most recent census, the state Legislature approved maps that split Davidson County, which spans the Nashville area, into three congressional districts.
Former Rep. Jim Cooper, a Democrat who long represented the area in Congress, cited the new lines when announcing his retirement. The three newly drawn districts are currently all represented by Republicans.
“The resulting map splintered the electoral strength of Black voters and other voters of color in Davidson County, just as the Legislature intended,” the lawsuit states.
The lawsuit also challenges the makeup of Tennessee’s 31st state senate district also as an unconstitutional racial gerrymander. The district is one of five in Shelby County, which covers the Memphis area.
The challenge is being brought by the Tennessee State Conference of the NAACP, the African American Clergy Collective of Tennessee, the Equity Alliance, the League of Women Voters of Tennessee and five Tennessee voters in the impacted districts.
The plaintiffs also took aim at the process the legislature used to pass the new maps, calling it rushed and claiming lawmakers ignored concerns put forth by Black constituents.
“The committees implemented an opaque, inadequate, and rushed process designed to forestall public scrutiny, minimize backlash, and stifle any meaningful debate or dissent,” the lawsuit states.
The Hill has reached out for comment to the offices of the governor and secretary of state, both of whom are named as defendants.