Court Orders New Tennessee State Senate Map, Upholds State House Map

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, a 2-1 panel on a Tennessee trial court ordered the Tennessee Legislature to redraw the state Senate map and upheld the state’s House map. 

This Jan. 8, 2020, photo shows the Tennessee State Capitol in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
This Jan. 8, 2020, photo shows the Tennessee State Capitol in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

This decision stems from a lawsuit filed on behalf of Democratic voters challenging Tennessee’s new state House and Senate maps drawn with 2020 census data. The plaintiffs argued that Republicans in the Tennessee Legislature unnecessarily split counties to create state House districts and numbered state Senate districts non-consecutively in violation of the state constitution. 

The lawsuit alleged that Republicans created the legislative districts “to ensure maximum partisan advantage for the incumbent Republican supermajority” and argued that they should be blocked and replaced with legal maps. 

Last year, a three-judge panel temporarily blocked the state Senate map, but declined to block the state House map. The state then appealed this decision to the Tennessee Supreme Court, which voided the decision that blocked the state Senate map. This meant that the as-enacted legislative maps were in place for the 2022 midterm elections. 

After the 2022 midterms, litigation continued in the trial court, which issued its decision on the legality of the state legislative maps today. The court upheld the state House map after finding that the plan did not violate the Tennessee Constitution.

While the court upheld Tennessee’s House map, it did strike down Tennessee’s Senate map after finding that it is unconstitutional. The court held that state Senate districts are not consecutively numbered (pictured below) and therefore the map is unconstitutional. “The Tennessee Constitution provides that, “in a county having more than one senatorial district, the districts shall be numbered consecutively,” the order reads. 

Image of state senate map. Districts are numbered and counties within the same district are Yellow, green, red, blue, and pink depending on their district.
Screenshot of Tennessee State Senate Map (

The requirement of consecutive districts is important since district numbers determine when state Senate elections are held: 

This requirement ensures that half of a large county’s senatorial districts will be on the ballot in presidential election years (even-numbered districts) and the other half will be on the ballot in gubernatorial election years (odd-numbered districts).

The Legislature’s map created three odd-numbered districts in Davidson County — home to the state’s capital city of Nashville — and another odd-numbered district in a portion of Davidson County. As a result, Davidson County would have held three state Senate elections in the same year as gubernatorial elections and only one state Senate election during a presidential year.    

The court is giving the Tennessee Legislature until Jan. 31, 2024 to adopt a state Senate plan that complies with the Tennessee Constitution. 

Read the opinion here.

Learn more about the case here.