On Thursday, Republican super-majorities in both General Assembly chambers easily overrode Governor Beshear’s vetoes of the Repub-drawn redistricting maps, thus putting those new maps in place. And on the same day, the Kentucky Democratic Party, along with a number of voters, filed a lawsuit to throw the maps out.
The veto overrides
With very little debate, the override votes went as expected – except for a few Republicans who joined Democrats in voting against overriding.
House Bill 2 – the new House districts
On HB 2, the new House map, the vote in the House to override the governor’s veto was 69-23. Lynn Bechler was the only Repub to vote no, as he is now in a district with Jim Gooch.
In the Senate, the vote to override on HB 2 was 24-10. GOP Sens. Donald Douglas and Adrienne Southworth joined the Dems in voting against the override. Said Southworth: “These are not the best drawn maps.” She said she was not sure if the map met the requirements of the law.
Senate Bill 3 – the new Congressional districts
On SB 3, the new Congressional map, the vote in the Senate to override the governor’s veto was 26-8, with three Republican senators voting against the override: Danny Carroll, Jimmy Higdon, and Adrienne Southworth.
The House then voted 64-24 to override on SB 3.
Almost at the same time the veto overrides were happening, the Kentucky Democratic Party announced that they were suing to overturn the new redistricting maps. They were joined in the lawsuit by House Democratic Caucus Chair Derrick Graham and a number of voters from Graham’s district in Franklin County.
From a press release sent out by the KDP:
“The General Assembly’s focus in creating these district maps wasn’t representation or democracy or even legality – their focus was on partisan politics, which is why they unnecessarily sliced up so many counties,” said plaintiff Joseph Smith. “Why else would I, a Franklin County resident, be sorted into the same congressional district as Paducah? I should pick my representatives – they shouldn’t pick me.”
“These maps were drawn behind closed doors with no public input to silence the voices of hundreds of thousands of Kentuckians,” said KDP Chair Colmon Elridge. “We are joining residents who are disenfranchised by these gerrymandered districts to stop this partisan power grab. These maps intentionally slice up cities and counties, reduce the number of women serving in the House and dilute the voices of minority communities.”
The press release also notes:
As the lawsuit illustrates, the maps violate sections 1, 2, 3, and 6 of the Kentucky Constitution by “arbitrarily denying the citizens of the Commonwealth the rights to a free and equal election, free expression, and free association” and the Republicans violated Section 33 of the Kentucky Constitution “by excessively and unnecessarily splitting counties into multiple districts without legitimate purpose, and impermissibly attaching portions of split counties to others more times than is necessary to achieve districts of roughly equal size.”
The press release notes that the Kentucky constitution guarantees citizens the right to “free and equal” elections. This same clause is in the Pennsylvania state constitution, and was the basis for a successful anti-gerrymandering lawsuit in that state. Also, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled that their state constitution prohibits gerrymandering. KDP and the plaintiffs in this lawsuit hope that the Kentucky Supreme Court agrees.
A copy of the lawsuit can be found here.