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Ky. lawmakers plan to quickly pass redistricting maps

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J. Tyler Franklin, WFPL
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Republican lawmakers plan to quickly pass new political maps during the upcoming legislative session, giving the public just about a week to see exactly what Kentucky’s state House, state Senate and congressional districts will look like before they are adopted.

The U.S. Constitution requires states to redraw legislative and congressional districts every 10 years using new Census data to ensure equal representation. In Kentucky, this is the first time Republicans will be in charge of redistricting in the history of the once Democratically controlled state.

Republican leaders of the legislature have already begun drawing new maps behind closed doors despite calls from Democrats and the League of Women Voters to be more transparent about the process.

Senate President Robert Stivers, a Republican from Manchester, said the maps are nearly complete and he expects lawmakers to vote on them quickly.

“I think what we would do is start introducing bills on the first day, and I think redistricting plans would be done within the minimum number of days, put on the governor’s desk within the first part of the next week,” Stivers said.

Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear will have little input on the redistricting effort. If Beshear decides to veto the maps, both Republican-dominated chambers of the legislature can easily override the action.

Barring a court challenge, the maps will be in effect for next year’s contests when all six of Kentucky’s members of Congress and most of the state legislature will be up for reelection.

But redistricting will still require some legislative gymnastics to implement in an orderly fashion.

The deadline for candidates to file for office is Jan. 7, three days after the start of the legislative session.

Stivers said lawmakers plan to pass a bill to delay the filing deadline, but he’s not sure by exactly how much.

“Just for a short period of time,” Stivers said.

Stivers once again called for Beshear to summon lawmakers to Frankfort in the coming weeks to tackle redistricting during a special legislative session. Beshear has said he would consider it if lawmakers would show him their plans.

Stivers dismissed that idea.

“It is not his role to set policy. It is ours. And where the districts are is our prerogative. And he can either veto it or not. If he does in the regular session we’ll override,” Stivers said.

The reason Kentucky’s redistricting process is especially hectic this year is population data from the U.S. Census came in late this year, and lawmakers only got the information they needed to draw new maps in September.

But the state’s redistricting process after the 2010 Census was complicated too, taking several years to complete. Initial maps were struck down by the state Supreme Court in 2012 for having too many population disparities between districts and dividing too many counties. Legislative and congressional candidates ran in districts from the previous decade’s maps until new maps were finalized in 2013.

This year, lawmakers will be tasked with balancing districts after major shifts in population from rural parts of the state to more urban ones. That’ll likely mean fewer legislative districts in eastern and western regions of Kentucky.

Ryland Barton is the Managing Editor for Collaboratives for Kentucky Public Radio, a group of public radio stations including WKMS, WFPL in Louisville, WEKU in Richmond and WKYU in Bowling Green. A native of Lexington, Ryland most recently served as the Capitol Reporter for Kentucky Public Radio. He has covered politics and state government for NPR member stations KWBU in Waco and KUT in Austin.
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