Earlier this year, the Republican majority in the Kentucky House released their new district maps for the state House and for our six Congressional seats. And just as we knew they would be, the maps were tremendously gerrymandered. In other words, they were not drawn simply to reflect population shifts; instead, they were drawn to specifically benefit Republicans in elections, and to get rid of as many Democrats as possible.
The Congressional map got all the attention, as the Repubs included Frankfort in the far-western First District to benefit Jamie Comer, who has a house in Frankfort. It was one of the more outrageous gerrymanders in the nation, and made the Kentucky map the laughingstock of the political media.
But it was the map for the Kentucky House that did the most damage.
From the beginning, it was obvious that the Republicans were using their new map to target certain people – specifically, Democratic women. They began by putting multiple incumbent Dem women in the same district, thus ensuring that at least one woman in each district would be gone. By using that tactic, they got rid of Mary Lou Marzian and McKenzie Cantrell.
Then, they drew the new districts to harm more Democrats. They were so determined to get rid of Patti Minter, for example, that they drew the district line around her house on a corner in Bowling Green. They ripped apart Cherlynn Stevenson’s district and gave her a whole new part of the state, meaning the voters in the district didn’t know her even though she was an incumbent. And they went after Angie Hatton in eastern Kentucky – another strong Democratic woman.
It wasn’t just the women they went after, though. They took Covington and split it five ways to Sunday, giving Buddy Wheatley almost a whole new district that was more Republican.
And it worked. Of the Dems that lost KY House races, almost every one can be traced back to the gerrymandering by the Republicans. In a bass-ackwards distortion of the democratic process, they got to choose their voters, instead of the voters choosing them.
Except for one race. Cherlynn Stevenson overcame their plan to drive her out, and won her district by 35 votes. At least one strong Dem woman got to say “F you” to the attack on her by the Repubs.
Everyone knows the maps are rigged. Even Judge Wingate, who yesterday ruled against the Dems in their lawsuit to get the maps thrown out, said that the maps were obviously “partisan gerrymanders.”
At this point, the only way we get fairly drawn maps in Kentucky is for the state Supreme Court to throw out the current ones on the same basis as the courts used in Pennsylvania and North Carolina: that the state constitution calls for “free and fair elections,” and the gerrymandered maps in those states did not meet that criteria.
Kentucky’s constitution contains the same phrase, so it is possible our Supreme Court will apply the same logic and tell the Repubs to draw the maps again, and this time do it right.
In the meantime, though, Democrats across the state will have to contend with maps drawn by Republicans who are obviously scared to compete on a level playing field. Especially if it means competing with strong Democratic women.
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