NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Democratic-leaning Nashville Metropolitan City Council will retain its 40 seats for now, according to a temporary decision issued Monday by three state judges. The ruling stymies an effort by state Republican lawmakers to cut the council in half after it prevented the 2024 Republican National Convention from being held in Music City.
Nashville has operated under a combined city-county system of government with 40 council members since 1963, when leaders fought to consolidate the city and surrounding county while advocates worked to ensure black leaders maintained strong representation there.
The new statute in question would require Nashville to draw new municipal districts by May 1, a deadline city officials say is unreasonable.
Three state court trial judges, one from Nashville, one from Shelby County and one in Athens, Tennessee, agreed, saying there is a «compelling public interest in preserving the integrity of the Metro election process that is already on going».
The Nashville government officials who filed the lawsuit have argued that changing the composition of the council now will cause chaos in this year’s election, in part because it would require redrawing district lines after more than 40 candidates have launched. bells.
Monday’s ruling blocked the requirement pending the outcome of the lawsuit.
“The Court finds that implementation of the Act and its abatement provisions at this late date results in disruption of the electoral process, risks misleading voters, and potentially compromises the integrity of the August 3, 2019 general election. 2023 in Davidson County,” the judges wrote.
Attorney General Jonathan Skrmetti’s office is defending the state against the lawsuit. His spokeswoman, Elizabeth Lane, said the office is still reviewing the decision.
Wally Dietz, legal director for Nashville city and county government, which is seeking to strike down the new law, said in a statement that Nashville officials are «grateful that the court has issued an injunction based on its unanimous finding of that Metro is likely to succeed in our assertion that the Legislature violated the Constitution by changing the rules just for Metro in the middle of an election.»
State law, which only applies to city or county governments, would reduce Nashville’s combined council to 20 people. No other city or county government in Tennessee has more than that.
If a metropolitan government is unable to make the changes in time for the next election, the terms of current members are supposed to be extended by one year to accommodate the changes, and the next four-year term would be reduced to three. The electoral cycle would then return to once every four years.
City officials have said the scheme violates the state Constitution.
A quarter of Nashville council seats are held by black members, half by women, and five members who identify as LGBTQ+.
The GOP-dominated Tennessee House of Representatives passed the law halving the number of seats earlier this year, one of many proposals Republicans have tabled to change Nashville’s politics.
A bill would have renamed a portion of Nashville Rep. John Lewis Way to Trump Boulevard. Since then, that legislation has skyrocketed over the year. Another measure would reconfigure police oversight boards in Tennessee and a third would prevent cities from using public funds to reimburse female employees who travel out of state for abortions. Tennessee’s abortion ban is one of the strictest in the country. Some limited exceptions are awaiting the Governor’s signature.