Via press release from the Kentucky League of Women Voters
On Tuesday, January 4, 2022, we had our first opportunity to review the proposed redistricting maps for the Kentucky Senate and for Kentucky’s seats in the United States House of Representatives. That has given us only the briefest opportunity for review, but we are ready to state several major concerns.
We seek districts drawn without attention to the impact on incumbent officeholders, in alignment with the position of the League of Women Voters of the United States. We also seek opportunities for the public to participate in the development of those maps, with time to review them, propose changes, and have those changes be given consideration. From our 2017 redistricting study through all our work over the last four years, we have consistently called for the interests of voters, not the interest of current officials, to be the basis for redistricting.
Concerns with the present maps
The proposed Senate map was explicitly designed to protect incumbents. Perhaps as a result, the maps also are highly disruptive to several of the state’s larger counties. Specifically:
• Fayette County is large enough to have two full Senate seats, but instead has one Senate seat and the rest of its population divided out into six other districts shared with 20 other counties.
• Warren County is large enough to have its own Senate seat but is instead split between three seats shared with 12 counties.
• Kenton County will still have a seat of its own, but several Covington precincts have been moved into the district that serves Campbell, Pendleton and Bracken. That move was clearly not required to meet any legal obligation.
Those divisions appear to have been designed to ensure that incumbents, those currently holding office, could continue to do so. In our judgment, districts could have been drawn more constructively if voters, rather than office-holders, had been the priority.
Similarly, we cannot support the Congressional map that has been proposed. Placing Franklin County, in north-central Kentucky, in the 1st District along with the state’s most southwestern counties is an egregious example of gerrymandering. It cannot be justified as serving citizens or voters well. It is clearly a choice designed to serve either incumbents or a partisan interest.
We also oppose the speed with which these decisions are being made. For example, we are struggling to understand the implications of the substantial changes to the Senate map for Jefferson County in this very tight time frame. A wider public needs the time and the opportunity to analyze and comment on all the proposed districts. For example, a real understanding of district changes that affect Covington and Hopkinsville will require thought from people who live in those areas, but the current timetable does not allow those residents to share full thoughts with legislators or with the League and other civic organizations.
Accordingly, we respectfully urge the General Assembly to:
• Immediately release the data and the principles behind the proposed redistricting maps being considered for the House, the Senate, and the Congress.
• Quickly reset the filing deadline for those who want to run for office in the 2022 elections: the current January 7 deadline will clearly come and go before the maps are finalized.
• Establish a responsible timetable for action to establish new districts, giving Kentucky citizens time to study them, identify concerns, and propose improvements. This process should take weeks, not hours, and include many participants, not just a few drafters behind closed doors.