Civil Rights Groups File Federal Lawsuit Over Tennessee’s Congressional and State Senate Maps

WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Wednesday, Aug. 9, a coalition of civil rights organizations and individual voters filed a federal lawsuit challenging Tennessee’s congressional and state Senate districts that were drawn with 2020 census data. The new lawsuit contends that the congressional and state Senate districts are unconstitutional racial gerrymanders that were enacted with racially discriminatory intent in order to dilute the votes of Black and Brown Tennesseans.

The plaintiffs — including the Tennessee State Conference of the NAACP, League of Women Voters of Tennessee and others — allege that the Legislature’s redistricting plans were enacted with a “discriminatory purpose.” According to the lawsuit, the challenged districts “crack” and “pack” Black and Brown voters in order to “minimize” their electoral influence. 

“[T]he Congressional and State Senate plans were both passed hastily, without any meaningful consideration given to public testimony against the plans or to several proposed amendments that might have alleviated the impact of the discriminatory intent animating the plans—including several amendments introduced by Black legislators,” the complaint states. 

The lawsuit specifically asserts that the Republican-controlled Legislature split Davidson County, home to Nashville, into three separate congressional districts. Under the state’s previous congressional map, most of Davidson County and all of Nashville were previously contained within the 5th Congressional District, which “had reliably elected voters of color’s candidates of choice for nearly two decades.” However, the new redistricting plan splinters Davidson County and Nashville among the 5th, 6th and 7th Congressional Districts, rendering voters of color unable to elect their preferred candidate in any of these districts.

In addition to challenging the Legislature’s dismantling of the 5th Congressional District, the plaintiffs claim that the Legislature diluted the electoral power of voters of color by splitting up the 31st state Senate District in Shelby County, home to Memphis. The plaintiffs ask a federal court to declare the challenged districts in violation of the 14th and 15th Amendments and to prevent future elections from being held under them. 

Read the complaint here. 

Learn more about the case here.