FILE-U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper

U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Tenn. Content Exchange

(The Center Square) – Nearly 10 public commenters went in front of the Tennessee House Select Committee on Redistricting on Wednesday, calling for transparency in the legislative map-drawing process and not splitting up municipalities.

The Tennessee General Assembly is charged with creating new maps for Tennessee’s state and congressional legislative districts after the release of 2020 U.S. census data.

U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Tenn., who is the brother of Nashville Mayor John Cooper and represents the Nashville area, spoke about maintaining a bipartisan and transparent process while keeping municipalities such as Nashville in the same district rather than splitting the district.

“That’s generally what’s been done,” Jim Cooper said. “I hope and pray for Nashville’s case, that’s what’s done.

“Should Nashville be split? It’s not only the state capital, but it’s the economic engine of the state.”

Many of the other public comments, from voter groups throughout the state, asked that public submission of map suggestions be simplified.

Doug Himes, counsel to the Select Committee on Redistricting, said complete map suggestions must be submitted by the public to a representative in the Tennessee House, who then must submit it to the committee by noon Nov. 12.

Matia Powell, executive director for CivicTN, suggested the committee keep cities whole, have a transparent process and host public meetings before the maps are completed.

Himes spent much of the meeting explaining the ground rules for maps, details on how counties cannot be split more than once and how Tennessee’s noncontiguous counties will be handled, along with presenting facts from the census.

Jim Garrett, chair of the Davidson County Republican Party, pointed to state House districts 51, 53, 58 and 59 as now being overpopulated but asked the committee to “divide by population and not by politics.”

The committee has not determined the date of its next meeting.

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