A Franklin Circuit Judge says he will rule by Tuesday afternoon on whether or not to delay the filing deadline for state House and Senate seats. Judge Phillip Shepherd made that announcement during a hearing Monday on a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Kentucky’s new redistricting law. The hearing came on the eve of the filing deadline.
The lawsuit was filed last Friday by three House Republicans (Jeff Hoover, Joe Fisher and Kim King) and Monday a Senate Democrat, Kathy Stein of Lexington, was allowed to intervene.
The law includes new boundaries for both the 100 House districts and 38 Senate districts.
"The matter is unconstitutional on its face,” said Victor Maddox, attorney for the trio of House representatives. Maddox says the House lines split too many of Kentucky’s 120 counties, 28. And, one district exceeds the population deviation limit of 5 percent.
Maddox told the court that House Speaker Greg Stumbo, a Democrat, “didn’t care” what Supreme Courts had ruled in the past or what an Attorney General’s opinion said.
"Because in the Speaker’s world politics trumps the constitution,” alleged Maddox.
Stumbo’s General Counsel said that’s “not true.”
"Kentucky's population changed dramatically in the last ten years and this plan is a good faith effort to meet those population changes and to honor both the federal and state constitutional requirements,” said Pierce Whites on behalf of House Democratic leadership.
The January 31 deadline is followed by a May 22 primary. The lawyer of the state’s chief election officer, the Secretary of State, urged the court to “respect the process.”
"There was no discussion of immediate or irreparable injury in the argument we heard earlier,” said David Tachau.
However, when lawyers for the minority party in the House showed maps of the new districts, including the Pulaski County “strip,” which is a thin line connecting Madison County with Casey County,. That caught the judge’s eye. Judge Shepherd said he has a “somewhat troubling concern” about that."
Whites noted that “pure politics is not enough” to reject the new boundaries. "Politics is an inherent part of the redistricting plan,” admitted Whites.
The General Assembly has already delayed the filing deadline for congressional races a week. Lawmakers have been unable to agree on a plan to redraw Kentucky’s six districts for the U.S. House.