‘Gerrymandered’ Tenn. House, Senate maps go to trial Monday

Leader Akbari, Chairwoman Lamar urge court to uphold the Constitution

Tennessee Senate Democrats
4 min readApr 14, 2023


NASHVILLE — Beginning Monday, the Davidson County Chancery Court will hear the case Wygant v. Lee, challenging the constitutionality of the House and Senate maps enacted by Republicans in 2022.

The lawsuit against the House map claims that Republicans divided an excessive number of cities and counties, which conflicts with clear directives in the Tennessee Constitution.

The case against the Senate map claims Republicans ignored the Constitution’s requirement that Senate Districts be “numbered consecutively” in counties where there are multiple districts.

“Next week, a court will hear the case against these gerrymandered maps and we are hoping for an outcome that upholds the Constitution and protects every Tennessean’s right to representation in the General Assembly,” said Senate minority leader Sen. Raumesh Akbari in a statement. “Democracy depends on fair maps that keep our communities whole and reflect who we are as a state. Tennesseans deserve nothing less.”

“Republicans divided our communities and rigged our electoral maps in a naked and unconstitutional power grab,” said Senate Democratic Caucus Chairwoman Sen. London Lamar. “We warned the supermajority these maps illegally diminish the voting power of communities throughout the state. Now these rigged maps get their day in court and we pray the people and our democracy prevail.”

In the initial lawsuit filed last year, the three citizens contesting the House and Senate maps claimed the plans enacted along party lines are “facially unconstitutional.”

“The Tennessee General Assembly supermajority and Governor Bill Lee ignored the plain, unambiguous text of the Tennessee Constitution in order to enact their partisan redistricting scheme,” according to the complaint. It continued saying the maps are unfairly drawn to ensure a “maximum partisan advantage for the incumbent Republican supermajority.”

The same court agreed last April when it issued an injunction that blocked the Senate map from taking effect. (That injunction was later overturned by the state Supreme Court, though not on the merits of the case.)

Now, a pretrial summary judgment order authored by the three-judge panel hearing the case offers fresh credence to the plaintiffs’ claims.

On the House map:

The Tennessee Supreme Court has held that Tennessee House districts must “cross as few county lines as is necessary to comply with federal constitutional requirements.”

The judges note, the Republican-adopted plan splits a total of 30 counties, while “during the legislative process, State Rep. Bob Freeman proposed an alternative House map with only 23 county divisions.”

“Plaintiffs have sufficiently demonstrated that the House map violates the constitutional prohibition against crossing county lines,” the order states. “Additionally, the alternate proposed House map divided fewer political subdivisions (18) than the enacted map (65).”

At trial, the state must now prove to the court that Republicans had a constitutional reason for dividing so many communities.

On the Senate map:

The Tennessee Constitution provides that, “in a county having more than one senatorial district, the districts shall be numbered consecutively.”

The Republican-adopted plan created four senatorial districts within Davidson County that are numbered 17, 19, 20, and 21.

The state is “no longer defending the substantive constitutionality of the Senate plan,” according to the order. Instead, the state is asserting that a qualified voter of Senate District 17 does not have standing to challenge the constitutionality of the map — an irresponsible legal theory with no precedent in state law or court opinions on redistricting.

The trial in Davidson County Chancery Court begins Monday at 9 a.m. with Chief Judge Russel T. Perkins, Judge J. Michael Sharp and Chancellor Steven W. Maroney presiding. For reference, it’s Case No. 22–0287-IV.

The plaintiffs are asking the court to block the state House and Senate maps and force the legislature to redraw the maps to correct the constitutional violations.


Adopted Senate map. Explore the map.

The adopted Senate plan had an overall deviation from equality of 6.17% and split 10 counties and 22 cities.

Proposed Democratic alternative map. Explore the map.

The alternative map proposed by Sen. Jeff Yarbro had an overall deviation from equality of 7.7% and split only eight counties and six cities.

Adopted Tenn. House map. Explore the map.

The court order says the adopted House plan has an overall variance from equality of 9.91% and splits a total of 30 counties and 65 cities.

Proposed Democratic alternative map. Explore the map.

The court order says the alternative map proposed by State Rep. Bob Freeman has a lower overall variance from equality of 9.72%, and splits only 23 counties and 18 cities.