League of Women Voters calls on General Assembly to act responsibly with new maps

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The following is an op-ed from the Kentucky League of Women Voters, addressed to the Kentucky General Assembly.

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Knowledge is Power.

It’s a truth that philosophers, educators and politicians have acknowledged for hundreds of years, if not millennia, sometimes for the betterment of the few, sometimes to the detriment of the many.

The League of Women Voters of Kentucky (LWVKY) has spent the better part of the past two years educating the public about the issues surrounding redistricting that accompany the decennial census. State legislators are tasked with drawing boundaries for congressional districts and state legislative districts (for the House and Senate) that address the Commonwealth’s shifting population identified in the 2020 census data.

How the legislature goes about conducting the business of redistricting is every citizen’s business.

  • That’s why the LWVKY twice promoted legislation that would have created a bipartisan advisory commission to work with legislators to draw Fair Maps that put citizens’ interests first. That legislation went nowhere in Frankfort’s halls of power.
  • That’s why the LWVKY called on legislators to conduct public hearings to gather citizen input. Legislators didn’t do that.

So that’s why the LWVKY launched our own listening tour and education campaign across the state to show the public what Fair Maps can look like, compared to the gerrymandered maps we currently have.

Because Knowledge is Power.

The LWVKY has made more than 100 presentations and held a series of Fair Maps Forums across the Commonwealth over the past two years.  We invited and saw participation from a vast array of audiences representing civic, business, educational, and general public interests.

We launched the People-Powered Fair Maps Petition calling on legislators to avoid gerrymandering, and to carry out their redistricting responsibilities with fairness, transparency and public input. Kentucky’s citizens deserve to see the new legislative maps and have time to evaluate and comment on them before legislators pass them into law.

Some legislators would argue that the Governor needs to call a special session this year to address the redistricting process before the 2022 regular session begins on January 4th. The argument is that the January 7th candidate filing deadline complicates the process of introducing, inviting public review, and voting on new maps, and would perhaps necessitate moving the filing deadline to a later date.

However, it’s worth noting that the legislature and former governor passed legislation in 2019 to reset the candidate filing deadline from the traditional end of January (“the last Tuesday in January”) to the beginning of the regular session (“the first Friday following the first Monday”). One would reasonably assume they understood the 2020 census was coming when they made that decision. It seems the legislators now find themselves between a rock and a hard spot, but they are the architects of their own agony. That is no reason for them to deny the public opportunity to see what they’re doing in the redistricting process.

The legislature is, in fact, engaged in a map-drawing effort right now.  House Speaker David Osborne reportedly said at a recent press conference that the leadership has had “multiple meetings with members, with the minority (Democrats) and continue to work on a map that we hope to have completed relatively soon.”

The legislature can be transparent with the public about the maps they are creating, with or without a special session, and without the pressure of waiting until the first week of January. The LWVKY has demonstrated how to engage the public on this issue for the past two years. It’s not complicated. It just depends on whether legislators want to share their knowledge with the citizens they serve.

Because Knowledge is Power.

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