Lawmakers ask Knox County for community input on new state, federal election maps
Reps. Johnson, McKenzie to host community districting meeting with Sens. Akbari, Yarbro
KNOXVILLE — What should East Tennessee’s political maps look like for the next 10 years? That’s a question lawmakers want to answer this Thursday.
Rep. Gloria Johnson (D-Knoxville) and Rep. Sam McKenzie (D-Knoxville) are hosting an online community meeting Thursday at noon EST. Sen. Raumesh Akbari (D-Memphis) and Sen. Jeff Yarbro (D-Nashville) will also participate.
Lawmakers want input from Knox County residents about their neighborhoods and how the legislature could better serve the needs of their community. A good district map reflects a whole community or a community of shared interests, such as a city, neighborhood or group of people who have common policy concerns that would benefit from being drawn into a single district.
These legislators will use the input they learn from residents to better inform the legislature on how to draw fair state and federal districts that best represent Knox County communities for the coming decade.
Community districting — also called redistricting or reapportionment — comes every 10 years after federal census officials release data showing the population of every county, city and town in the nation.
The goal of community districting is to produce new political maps where districts at each level of government have an equal population. But it is also an opportunity to make sure districts are responsive to the needs of whole communities and neighborhoods, lawmakers say.
“How the political maps are drawn will affect every issue our families face for a decade whether you’re concerned about student funding, the cost of health care or access to child care,” said meeting host Rep. Johnson (D-Knoxville). “Politicians carved up our communities for political gain 10 years ago. Today, solutions start with enacting fair maps, where Tennesseans pick their leaders — instead of politicians picking their voters.”
Participating in community districting is as important as voting or advocating for civil rights, according to Rep. McKenzie.
“From the fight for civil rights to making our voices heard in record numbers at the ballot box in the last election, when we band together, we can create lasting change,” Rep. McKenzie said. “But right now, some power-hungry politicians want to divide our communities in an attempt to silence some of our families based on where they live. We have to join together and speak out for fair districts to ensure our communities thrive for the next 10 years and generations that follow.”
The Knoxville community districting meeting is the first in a series of public meetings being planned by Democrats in the Tennessee General Assembly. In the coming weeks, lawmakers will host public meetings in Chattanooga, Nashville and Memphis.
Democratic leaders have encouraged the Republican majority, which controls the mapmaking process in the legislature, to host public meetings across the state. Only one meeting in Nashville has been held so far.
Democrats say these public meetings are key to developing fair maps that keep cities and communities whole.