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TN Politics: "Punishing" Urban Areas Is Theme in Redistricting

Tennessee Republicans hope new political maps — redrawn every decade — will reduce the number of Democrats in state government, even though the legislature is currently made up of 100 Republicans and 32 Democrats.

Political analyst Otis Sanford says that while redistricting is always a politically fraught process, with both parties proposing maps that favor incumbents and move districts lines to tilt close races, Republicans have been more secretive with their plans this year.

Sanford predicts there will be little public input into whatever the G.O.P. finally adopts.

One likely outcome of fewer urban Democrat voices in the state legislature will be further dismissal of urban concerns.

State Republicans, especially those in rural communities, have openly scorned the Memphis community's removal of racist Confederate statues.

As Memphis hospitals were nearing peak capacity over the summer due to COVID hospitalizations, lawmakers elsewhere were working to remove mask restrictions in public schools, while also undermining health department efforts to vaccinate children.

In the midst of Memphis' record murder rate, Republicans passed laws that increased criminals' access to firearms and removed the permitting process for carrying firearms in public, which police say can lead to more dangerous situations in inner cities.

Sanford says "punishing" metro areas — and Democrats — by passing harmful legislation that is out-of-touch with the needs of urban residents remains at the top of the rural Republican agenda.

Reporting from the gates of Graceland to the balcony of the Lorraine Motel, Christopher has covered Memphis news, arts, culture and politics for more than 20 years in print and on the radio. He is currently WKNO's News Director and Senior Producer at the University of Memphis' Institute for Public Service Reporting. Join his conversations about the Memphis arts scene on the WKNO Culture Desk Facebook page.