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Opinion | Don’t be surprised if there are fewer people representing Memphis in the Tennessee legislature | Otis Sanford

Political analyst and commentator Otis Sanford shared his point of view on redistricting in Tennessee.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The important, but little understood process of redistricting in Tennessee got off to a promising start Wednesday in Nashville. Unlike 10 years ago when redrawing legislative and congressional district lines was highly partisan and mostly cloaked in secrecy, the process this time looks to be much different.

The 16 member House select committee on Redistricting – that met for the first time Wednesday – includes four Democratic lawmakers – two of them from Memphis. And public input appears to be welcomed – unlike in the past.

All that said, Memphis and Shelby County is likely to lose at least one legislative seat – maybe more. And it won’t be because of shenanigans by rural Republicans. It will be the result of population changes from 2010 to 2020. Tennessee’s overall population grew nearly 9% in the 2020 census. But Shelby’s growth was minuscule, just two-tenths of a percent – while the city of Memphis shrunk.

That means a legislative seat will likely shift from Memphis to somewhere in middle Tennessee around Nashville – where the population in Williamson County, for example, grew about 35%.

That’s not a political issue. It’s a livability issue. And the fact is, a lot more people are choosing to live in Middle Tennessee. So don’t be surprised if there are fewer people representing Memphis in the legislature after next year. But we should continue to insist that the process is fair – and transparent.