UPDATE: House redistricting plan forces four sets of incumbents to face each other

Four merged districts in different parts of the state

UPDATE POSTED 11 A.M. DEC. 31, 2021

By BRUCE SCHREINER, Associated Press

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Four sets of Kentucky House incumbents — split equally among Republican and Democratic lawmakers — would be placed into the same districts under a redistricting plan unveiled by House GOP leaders Thursday.

The new boundaries for the 100-member chamber also would create two additional districts where the majority of voters would represent ethnic and racial minority populations, House Speaker David Osborne said.

The long-awaited remapping plan revealed by Osborne comes days before lawmakers convene next week for the start of their 2022 session. Redistricting looms as the top priority in the opening week. Redistricting plans for congressional and state Senate districts haven’t yet been revealed. Republicans hold supermajorities in both Kentucky legislative chambers.

Top House Democrats responded that the timing of the plan’s release was “an attempt at fake transparency.” They said it gives Kentuckians little time to review the new boundaries and to offer input.

Noting that the new boundaries will be in place for a decade, House Democratic leaders Joni Jenkins, Derrick Graham and Angie Hatton said in a joint statement, “The last thing we should be doing as a legislature is rushing something so important and so long-lasting.”

The leaders said they will review the map with their Democratic colleagues and discuss whether the GOP proposal meets legal and constitutional guidelines. The Democrats also said they are preparing an alternative redistricting plan.

Redistricting bills will be put on a fast track. Legislators are likely to be in session on Saturday, Jan. 8, to wrap up the work and send the new maps to Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear, Osborne said.

Lawmakers also plan to consider legislation in those opening days to extend the filing deadline for candidates, which is now Jan. 7.

Under the House plan, the new boundaries would double the number of districts — from two to four — where the majority of voters would represent ethnic and racial minority populations, Osborne said. Also under the plan, two other districts would have “increased minority influence,” he said.

The new House district map would not divide any precinct in the state, he said.

“We tried to draw districts as compactly as we possibly could,” Osborne said at a news conference.

The redistricting plan complies with legal and constitutional requirements, he said.

Their supermajority status in the General Assembly puts Republicans in full control of the once-a-decade redistricting process. Their lopsided majorities also created complications due to population losses in many rural counties in eastern and western Kentucky represented by GOP lawmakers.

“Trying to fit those pieces back together in consideration of that population loss was very difficult and resulted in a lot of change,” Osborne said.

After months of work preparing the new boundaries, the speaker expected some pushback.

“I understand that there will be criticisms of it,” he said. “I’m sure that some of our own members have criticisms of it.”

If the plan remains intact, two GOP House incumbents from eastern Kentucky — Reps. Norma Kirk-McCormick and Bobby McCool — would be placed in the same district. The same would apply to two Republican members from western Kentucky — Reps. Lynn Bechler and Jim Gooch Jr.

On the Democratic side, Reps. Mary Lou Marzian and Josie Raymond would be paired in the same district, as would Reps. McKenzie Cantrell and Lisa Willner.

 

ORIGINAL STORY POSTED 1 P.M. DEC. 30, 2021

FRANKFORT, Ky. (WTVQ/Press Release) – After months of work, discussions, and listening to stakeholders, a plan to redistrict State House districts will be filed for consideration when lawmakers convene the 2022 Regular Session on Tuesday, January 4 (click for current and proposed districts Current House    2022 Proposal).

House Speaker David Osborne provided a preview of the plan during a press conference at the State Capitol Annex on Thursday, saying he expects the proposal to pass in the first week when the Legislature convenes Jan. 4. But Democrats, while having little way to block the process because of Republican super-majorities, said Republicans are trying to mislead the public.

This will be the first time in history the Republican Party has been in the majority to lead the crafting of legislative districts.

“We have only one chance to draw it the first time, so it was important to us that we get it right. This proposal represents a committed effort to meet all legal considerations while maximizing every community’s influence to the greatest extent possible. We worked to make districts more compact, while still maintaining as much continuity as possible for constituents,” Osborne said. “We’ve accomplished those goals. This plan does not split a single precinct in the entire state. By comparison, redistricting plans passed by previous general assemblies included as many as 153 divided precincts.”

The Kentucky constitution requires lawmakers to redraw legislative district boundaries to reflect population shifts since the last census.

“Redistricting is tedious, detailed work and requires a thorough understanding of often conflicting legal and constitutional considerations,” added Representative Jerry T. Miller, Chair of the House State Government Committee and the plan’s primary sponsor. “When it became clear that Census numbers would be late, we sought input from a number of stakeholders and looked at our current map to see what areas could be improved. In addition to talking with the NAACP, we heard from the League of Women Voters and considered their plan.”

Democrats were critical of the process.

“What we saw today from Republican House leaders is an attempt at fake transparency.  If they were sincere, they would have not released their redistricting plan on a state holiday and without the detailed information the public needs. “Citizens and candidates alike won’t have that information online until late Tuesday, less than two days before the entire House votes. That gives them precious little time to absorb the many changes and then offer input, something that goes against the very hallmark of the legislative process,” said House Democratic leaders Joni Jenkins, Derrick Graham and Angie Hatton.

“We will be reviewing this map further with our caucus members and discussing whether the Republican map meets all legal and constitutional guidelines.  We also are preparing an alternative that we believe will better serve the commonwealth. It is vital to remember that whatever is ultimately decided will be in place for a decade.  The last thing we should be doing as a legislature is rushing something so important and so long-lasting.  Kentuckians deserve more time so we can get this right,” the trio continued

According to Osborne and Miller, the House plan includes provisions that:

  • Sets the population of every district within the five percent plus or minus deviation required under Kentucky Supreme Court precedent.  Districts range between -4.39 percent and 4.8 percent.
  • Establishes areas currently experiencing high growth on the lower end of the deviation to meet the needs of growing districts. To understand why this is important, consider that the 60th District today consists of approximately 55,000 people, while we have multiple districts with less than 40,000 people.
  • Places four pairs of incumbents together, including two democrats and two republicans. For perspective, a map created by the League of Women Voters pitted at least 11 sets of incumbents against each other. The districts in question include one in far Western Kentucky, two in Jefferson County, and one in Eastern Kentucky. Doing so addressed both population shifts and helped preserve communities of interest. (Incumbents impacted include: Rep. Norma Kirk McCormick, Rep. Bobby McCool, Rep. Lynn Bechler, Rep. Jim Gooch, Rep. Mary Lou Marzian, Rep. Josie Raymond, Rep. Makenzie Cantrell, and Rep. Lisa Willner.
  • Divides the fewest number of counties possible. Twenty-one counties must be divided by law and the state population requires an additional two be divided.
  • Increases the number of single county districts to four by adding Hopkins and Henderson counties and several counties, including Hardin and Oldham, are divided into fewer districts.
  • Complies with the Voting Rights Act and all other legal and constitutional requirements. Because these guidelines were followed, the plan includes four majority minority districts (HD 40, HD 42, HD 43, and HD 44) and two districts with increased minority influence (HD 30 and HD 77).
  • Creates districts that are entirely contiguous and as compact as practicable given variables like topography and existing county precinct lines. For example, the 21st House District would no longer extend from the Tennessee state line to the greater Louisville area.

Osborne also shared lawmakers plan to approve the plan during the first week of session, “Legislators are ready to get to work as soon as we convene on Tuesday. We’re giving members enough time to review the House plan and they will have additional opportunities to vet it and discuss it next week. This will allow us to move forward and continue our work on the budget and take a look at what needs to be done to address both disaster recovery efforts in West and Western Kentucky and pandemic relief.”

In addition to filing redistricting measures, lawmakers anticipate filing legislation that would extend the deadline to file for public office until Tuesday, January 25.

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