Tennessee black caucus threatens legal action over redistricting

Tennessee black caucus threatens legal action over redistricting

October 25th, 2011 by Andy Sher in Local - Breaking News

State Rep. Karen Camper, D-Memphis, balances maps and documents after a Tuesday news conference by the Tennessee Black Caucus in Nashville to call for more input into redistricting plans being assembled by the Republican majorities in the General Assembly.

Photo by Associated Press/Times Free Press.

NASHVILLE - Black legislative leaders said today their caucus will file a lawsuit challenging Republican redistricting plans if they feel the map, which is being drawn in secret, violates the federal Voting Rights Act.

Rep. G.A. Hardaway, chairman of the legislature's Black Caucus, called on Republicans to include caucus members in helping shape the plan that reapportions and redraws the 99 House and 33 Senate plans to reflect minority voters.

"We will sue if it's not in compliance with the Voting Rights Act as the Black Caucus sees it," Hardaway said.

He and other Black Caucus leaders also voiced concerns that GOP leaders' timetable for revealing the plan in subcommittee on Jan. 11 and have a final vote Jan. 23 moves too quickly.

Republicans have been showing individual Democrats, including black lawmakers, what will happen to them, but Hardaway say it is difficult to construct the entire "puzzle" from those pieces.

Hardaway also fretted about GOP plans to put Reps. Tommie Brown, D-Chattanooga, and Joanne Favors, D-Chattanooga, into the same district.

Both are black. Brown represents a majority-black district and Favors represents a district in which black voters have a significant presence. Republicans have said there are not enough black voters to constitute two majority-black districts and note that Brown's district needs additional black voters to maintain its status as a minority-majority district.

"We'll say that gives us concerns," Hardaway said. "We think there's a spirit and the letter of the law when it comes to the Voting Rights Act. And because you can draw out a district that's currently represented by African-American doesn't make it the right thing to do."

His comments were made to reporters after a caucus task force met with experts to begin outlining a possible legal challenge. Republicans will control redistricting for the first time in Tennessee history next year.