A bipartisan special Senate Committee on Redistricting was named by Lt. Gov. Randy McNally, R-Oak Ridge, on Friday.
Together with a parallel committee in the House of Representatives, the group will play an advisory role in the congressional and state legislative redistricting process with new data from the 2020 census.
The Senate committee will be chaired by Senate Majority Leader Jack Johnson, R-Franklin. Senate Minority Caucus Chair Raumesh Akbari, D-Memphis, and Senate Judiciary Chair Mike Bell, R-Riceville, will serve as vice chairs.
One of the chief purposes of the committee will be to facilitate the general public’s input on this process.
“Every legislator and every member of the public who wishes will have their voice heard in this process,” McNally said. “Public input will help the legislature create a fair and legal plan based on the census numbers provided to us. It is a tough job balancing both our federal and state constitutional mandates, but I believe this committee and the General Assembly is up to the task.”
The committee’s chief responsibilities will be to review the new census data to determine the impact on the current districts. The committee will hold public hearings to outline the redistricting process and inform members of the public on how they may submit their plan. This ad hoc committee is advisory in nature. During the legislative session next year, redistricting bills will be assigned to the Senate Judiciary Committee.
“This committee will help ensure my commitment to an open and transparent redistricting process. The Republican-led redistricting process 10 years ago solicited public input for the first time. That precedent will continue this year,” McNally said.
The Senate is also offering members of the public an opportunity to use state-of-the-art software to construct their own redistricting plan. Via the Senate redistricting website, members of the public will be able to access the Senate’s ESRI GIS software to create a map using the new census data. Maps created using other software solutions can be imported into ESRI for the purpose of submission.
Plans must include the whole state, comply with the Tennessee Constitution and the Voting Rights Act and stay within certain ideal population ranges. The full list of submission guidelines and training materials are available on the Senate’s redistricting page. Maps by members of the general public must be submitted by Monday, Nov. 22.
The remaining senators appointed to the seven-member committee are Speaker Pro Tempore Ferrell Haile, R-Gallatin; Majority Caucus Chair Ken Yager, R-Kingston; Minority Leader Jeff Yarbro, D-Nashville; and Sen. John Stevens, R-Huntingdon.