A couple of years ago, courts struck down North Carolina’s congressional district map, concluding that it represented a clear case of gerrymandering. If one were to even look at the map, it is patently clear how this conclusion could be reached.
Of course, North Carolina isn’t the only state which consistently attempts to draw its legislative districts to favor one party or the other, and one might hope that this ruling of the court will presage a plethora of similar rulings which will alert politicians that they are no longer going to have free rein over how congressional districts are drawn in their states.
North Carolina has thirteen congressional districts. Kentucky has only six, but it’s difficult to fathom why Kentucky has not been the recipient of such a court ruling before now. Better oversight in 2021 would be nice, but not expected under our present system.
Looking at the Kentucky congressional district map (readily available on Wikipedia, as are the district maps of all the states), it’s easy to see that there have been some pretty egregious finagling of the districts, most certainly to favor one or the other political party.
For instance, District One stretches all the way from the Kentucky border with Missouri to Pulaski County, a straight-line distance of about 230 miles, As it stretches across the bottom of the state, it encompasses a couple of single counties all by themselves. In other words, a candidate trying to travel within District One, and cover all the counties, would probably not even be able to remain totally within his district, but would have to go into District Two just to get from one side to the other.
In fact, except for Districts Six and Three, the other four districts not only stretch across the landscape, they also stretch the imagination as to how they were achieved.
District Four, encompassing the most northern part of the state, extends from the west boundary of Oldham County to Boyd County’s eastern boundary with West Virginia.
No one with any sense at all could look at this map and believe that they could not do a better and more rational job of drawing this state’s congressional district boundaries.
It has usually been a given that such boundaries are to be drawn in order to balance population so that each district represents a number of people close to every other district. Kentucky’s population is currently set at 4.47 million. That would mean that each congressional district should consist of approximately 744,000 people.
Maybe the current districts are established to consist of about that number, but there is certainly nothing to suggest that the districts could not be drawn in such a manner that the commensurate numbers could not be contained within more compact geographical arrangements.
It is well past the time when politicians should be allowed to be the people setting electoral districts. Kentucky — and perhaps every state — should set up independent commissions composed of equal numbers of individuals representing Democrat, Republican, and Independent parties, and these commissions should be provided with information relating only to population statistics in the state and counties, not with information about how separate areas in the state voted in the previous election. Without voting information, the commission would be unlikely to establish districts based on voter preference.
And the courts should make it clear that, unless districts are drawn as compactly as possible, based solely on population distribution, there will be a mandatory re-districting required and the members of the commission will be changed.
Written by Charles Witt