On Jan. 26, Republicans in the Tennessee House and Senate passed a gerrymandering measure to divide the 5th Congressional District in Davidson County. The measure was signed into law by Gov. Bill Lee Feb. 8. The new district maps mean that several majority Black neighborhoods and areas heavily populated with Latino residents will now be split up and added into rural, majority-white areas. In the current 5th District, Black people make up 24.3% of the voters and Latinos people make up roughly 13% of the voters. However, In the new 5th District, Black voters will plummet to 11.9% of the total while Latino voters will fall to 10.3%. Majority Black East and North Nashville will now be separated from the 5th District and added to the majority-white and rural 6th and 7th Districts.
Democratic senators and House members in Tennessee have announced their plans to take legal action to counteract the racial gerrymandering. However, in a recent case in Alabama, the Supreme Court recently let stand similarly racially gerrymandered Congressional maps. (Washington Post)
Davidson County, Tennessee, in which Nashville resides, is large and spread out. The largely minority areas of the county are in East Nashville, North Nashville and Antioch. The new Congressional map separates East Nashville into the 6th District, North Nashville into the 7th District, and Antioch will remain in the 5th District. Rather than voters of color remaining united throughout Davidson County and being able to have their voices heard and their needs met through voting, now Republicans will force much of the Black and Brown communities to fight for representation in majority-white areas that share fewer common interests with these neighborhoods, but happen to be near them geographically.
Political science professor Kent Syler called the racial gerrymandering in Davidson County “shocking.” (The Tennessean) He added, “The bottom line of what the legislature has done to Nashville is they have taken the right that Nashville voters have to select their own representation away from them.”
While Davidson County is 23.95% Black and 13.71% Latino, there is now a district within this county which only has 11.9% Black and 10.3% Latino voters. Congressional districts are redrawn every 10 years in Tennessee by the House and are supposed to be based upon Census population data. Republicans in the state now want eight of nine House seats, despite already having seven, to help the U.S. House turn Republican in the 2022 midterm elections in November.
Gerrymandering is the political practice of changing electoral district boundaries to create an undue advantage to a particular political party or group. Gerrymandering is not strictly a Republican practice. It is used by both Democrats and Republicans to consolidate power. What the Tennessee GOP is trying to accomplish is an example of gerrymandering known as cracking, or the process of separating voters into different districts to dilute their vote. The racial cracking in Davidson County is a form of minority voter suppression that is actually unconstitutional, but is now being allowed by the current Supreme Court. Such blatant disregard for citizens’ needs and interests due to their race should not be allowed in 2022.
This is why we, the people, must take matters into our own hands and fight for true voting rights throughout the United States. We must be vigilant and call out instances of racist gerrymandering when they occur. We must demand that the Republicans’ greedy actions be stopped in Tennessee and unite with those most negatively affected by corrupt voting practices. The fight for voting rights will continue as long as the United States is ruled by an autocratic, capitalist ruling class.
Feature image: Creative Commons Zero