NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — After a three-judge panel blocked a Tennessee Senate map in chancery court, Republicans said they will fight back.
The 21-page ruling said that the Tennessee General Assembly violated the state constitution in its numbering of the districts. The original complaint was filed in February. The judges indicated that legislators would have 15 days to "fix" the maps, or the court would create its own Senate map for the upcoming 2022 election cycle.
Reported first by The Tennessean, the Tennessee Attorney General filed an emergency motion to stay a lower court ruling.
“Lt. Governor McNally firmly disagrees with the court’s ruling and supports the attorney general’s decision to appeal," spokesperson Adam Khlenheider said. "The Senate’s map was fair, legal and vetted by multiple attorneys. While Lt. Governor McNally remains confident the appeal will be successful, the Senate will start work on an alternative map so that it can be passed in the allotted timeframe, if it becomes necessary.”
As a result of the ruling, Senate candidates have until May 5 to file their petitions. The original deadline was Thursday.
The judges found in the ruling that the three plaintiffs — who were supported by the Tennessee Democratic Party — that there was "risk of irreparable harm sufficient to warrant the issuance of extraordinary relief." Tennessee Democrats have repeatedly said the lines were drawn in a gerrymandering fashion.
NewsChannel 5 Political Analyst Pat Nolan said the panel of judges threw out the proposed state senate district map because of a numbering error.
"The language in the constitution is pretty plain, that when you do that within a county that has multiple senate seats, you have to number them consecutively, and they’re not in Davidson County," said Nolan.
The chairman of the Tennessee Democratic Party called the ruling a victory.
"Republicans have drawn illegal maps and the courts are finally stepping to help correct that," said Hendrell Remus, in an interview with NewsChannel 5.
To satisfy the court, lawmakers could either redraw the map or renumber the districts. However, renumbering could cause a different complication.
"When you change that, somebody might wind up having to run this year that didn’t plan to. And boy that would be the ultimate fruit basket turnover, wouldn’t it?" said Nolan.
That's because in Tennessee, odd numbered Senate districts are up for re-election this year, even-numbered districts in two years. Chairman Remus says they'll be ready either way.
"What’s most important in either one of those scenarios is making sure that we have strong credible candidates, and with a deadline extension, it gives us an opportunity that we have someone viable if that does happen," said Remus.
NewsChannel 5 reached out to the Tennessee Republican Party but we haven't heard back.
Throughout the legal process, Republicans tried to put forth a temporary injunction for the process. The court denied that motion.
In addition to the Senate maps, the House redistricting map will go to trial.