Divided Kentucky Supreme Court rules redistricting plans can stay Skip to content

Divided Kentucky Supreme Court rules redistricting plans can stay

A sharply divided Kentucky Supreme Court has upheld a lower court ruling that the 2022 legislative and Congressional redistricting plans were not partisan enough to justify throwing them out and requiring new plans to be enacted.

3 min read
Kentucky’s congressional districts, as drawn by the Repubs in Frankfort. Note the 1st District stretched to Frankfort because Jamie Comer has a house there.

A sharply divided Kentucky Supreme Court has upheld a lower court ruling that the 2022 legislative and Congressional redistricting plans were not partisan enough to justify throwing them out and requiring new plans to be enacted.

The justices delivered an eight-part decision, six of which were adopted on a 4-3 vote, while the other two were approved 5-2.

A majority of the justices stated in their 75-page opinion:

“In considering constitutional challenges to the General Assembly’s apportionment plans, including claims of unconstitutional partisanship, we apply a substantially deferential standard given the political nature of the apportionment process.  We will find such a plan unconstitutional if it involves a clear, flagrant, and unwarranted deviation from constitutional limitations, or if its effects are so severe as to threaten our democratic form of government.”

However, they noted, “The alleged partisanship in the crafting of the Apportionment Plans does not rise to the level of a clear, flagrant, or unwarranted deviation from constitutional limitations or a threat to our democratic form of government.  Nor do we perceive in the Apportionment Plans any violation of the constitutional guarantees of free and fair elections, equal protection, freedom of speech and assembly, or freedom from arbitrary government action.”

The majority opinion went on to say, “We further reaffirm that where full compliance with Section 33 [of the Kentucky Constitution] is not possible in the crafting of state legislative districts, the General Assembly must satisfy the dual mandates of population equality and county integrity set forth in Fischer II [a prior redistricting case] in order to comply with Section 33.  Under such circumstances, the General Assembly may deviate from literal criteria and limitations of Section 33, even when not strictly necessary, provided it does not do so in a manner that either clearly and flagrantly disregards the fundamental purpose of Section 33 in promoting population equality and county integrity in the apportionment process, or threatens the democratic form of government.”

Their bottom line: “The particulars of HB 2 [the House redistricting bill] reveal no such disregard or threat and we thus find that it complies with Section 33. Accordingly, the judgment of the trial court is affirmed.”

Reacting to the high court ruling, Kentucky House Democratic Caucus leaders Derrick Graham, Cherlynn Stevenson and Rachel Roberts, issued this statement:

“It has often been said that voters should be the ones who choose their leaders, not the other way around. We still believe in that, which is why we firmly disagree with today’s Kentucky Supreme Court decision. It gives legislative majorities much more authority to protect themselves at the expense of many voters while guaranteeing more political polarization for decades to come.

“The current congressional and state House maps are textbook examples of extreme partisan gerrymandering, from how they were drawn in secret to how they effectively decided the outcome of most races by the end of the primary. This entire process should have been rejected today; instead, we fear it will now become standard procedure.”

Secretary of State Michael Adams, who was a named defendant in the suit, said, “I’m pleased that today, in Graham v. Adams, our nonpartisan Supreme Court overwhelmingly rejected the Kentucky Democratic Party’s reckless, frivolous and hypocritical lawsuit that sought to impose a different set of election rules through the courts, following Democrats’ loss of legislative control that they had previously won for decades under those very rules.”

House Speaker David Osborne was pleased with the court's decision, too.

“As the first redistricting under a House Republican Majority in our state’s history, we knew we only had one chance to get it right. We succeeded," he said. "Today’s ruling validates our efforts and is notably the first time in modern history that a House redistricting plan has withstood legal challenges. The redistricting plan we crafted represented a committed effort to meet all legal considerations while maximizing every community’s influence to the greatest extent possible. I appreciate the efforts of former Representative Jerry Miller, the plan’s sponsor, and all who played a role in shaping the bill.”

Attorney General Daniel Cameron applauded the ruling and the General Assembly's process.

“Today the Supreme Court reaffirmed that redistricting of the Kentucky House of Representatives and Senate and Kentucky’s Congressional districts is an overwhelmingly and inherently political process that is committed to the General Assembly by our Constitution,” he said in a statement. “Because the elected policymakers closely followed the Court’s precedent in this area, the validity of the redistricting bills should never have been in doubt. I applaud the General Assembly’s thorough mapmaking process that created fair and constitutionally drawn districts for the commonwealth.”


Written by Tom Latek. Cross-posted from Kentucky Today.

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Kentucky Today

Kentucky Today is a news and commentary site sponsored by the Kentucky Baptist Convention.