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Lawmakers override Beshear vetoes, Dems sue to block redistricting maps

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Ryland Barton
/
Kentucky Public Radio

Republican lawmakers have overridden Gov. Andy Beshear’s vetoes of new redistricting maps and the Kentucky Democratic Party has filed a lawsuit to try and keep the plans from going into effect.

Beshear rejected redistricting plans for the state House of Representatives and Kentucky’s six congressional districts Wednesday night, but Republicans were able to easily override the vetoes on Thursday.

It only takes a majority vote in each legislative chamber to override a Kentucky governor’s veto, and Republicans have overwhelming majorities in both the House and Senate.

Rep. Jerry Miller, a Republican from Louisville who sponsored the House redistricting bill, said Beshear was wrong to reject the maps and that the facts weren’t on his side.

“The governor’s veto is a work of fiction,” Miller said.

Beshear argued that the House and congressional maps amounted to “political gerrymandering” by creating districts that unnecessarily divide counties and neighborhoods to favor Republican candidates.

The House map further divides several urban areas in the state and connects them with rural districts in surrounding areas. Democrats argue the plans dilute racial minorities’ political power in the state and make it harder for progressives to get elected.

The congressional map includes a strangely shaped 1st Congressional district that snakes from the western tip of the state up to Frankfort in central Kentucky. The move makes the 6th Congressional district more Republican-friendly by excising Democrat-heavy Frankfort from its western flank.

The Kentucky Democratic Party, Frankfort Democratic Rep. Derrick Graham and four Franklin County residents announced they would sue to block the maps on Thursday.

The group argues that the maps violate the Kentucky Constitution by splitting counties into multiple districts “without legitimate purpose” and more times than is necessary to create districts of roughly equal size.

They also argue the Kentucky Constitution’s provision ensuring “free and equal” elections requires elections “be free from excessive partisan gerrymanders.”

Colmon Elridge, chair of the Kentucky Democratic Party, issued a statement in support of the lawsuit.

“These maps were drawn behind closed doors with no public input to silence the voices of hundreds of thousands of Kentuckians,” Elridge said. “We are joining residents who are disenfranchised by these gerrymandered districts to stop this partisan power grab.”

During a press conference Thursday, Beshear said he thinks the maps are unconstitutional, but that he still wants to work with the legislature.

“I hope the comments we provide, while taking whatever steps we can, we can continue to be adults and none of us sound like the former governor,” Beshear said.

Both Beshear and legislative leaders butted heads with former Republican Gov. Matt Bevin throughout his one term, which ended in 2019.

Beshear has not taken any action on redistricting plans for the state Senate. If he doesn’t, the map will become law on Friday.

Kentucky went down a similar road of redistricting challenges in 2012, the last time lawmakers drew new maps.

House Republicans, who were the minority party in the chamber at the time, successfully sued to block the maps for dividing too many counties and having disproportionate districts. A court ended up ordering candidates to run on the old version of the map while the lawsuit transpired.

On Thursday, Rep. Miller filed a bill to delay the filing deadline for all candidates—from Congress to city council—until May 31 and delay primary elections until Aug. 2 for this year only. He told the Lexington Herald-Leader the bill would only advance if legal challenges drag on until late March.

Copyright 2022 89.3 WFPL News Louisville. To see more, visit 89.3 WFPL News Louisville.

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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