Kentucky Passes Congressional Maps

Kentucky lawmakers reached an agreement over new congressional districts on Friday February 10. The original deadline for the map was January 31, but was extended to February 7. When the already delayed candidate filing deadline passed without a new map, the issue was taken to court on February 9 by attorney Scott White of Lexington. The potential for court-created districts likely spurred lawmakers to pass a plan that many remain unhappy with. The new congressional districts were passed in the House by a vote 58-26, and 29-7 in the Senate.

Congressional district boundaries are required, by law, to be redrawn every ten years following the decennial census. This cycle of redistricting has been fraught with controversy in Kentucky. The Senate is currently controlled by Republicans, while the House is held by Democrats. The bill passed the State Government Committee in the Senate without the approval of the chairman, marking the first time a bill has passed through the committee without Chairman Damon Thayer’s approval in his 7 years in the position.

Many of the issues surrounding the newly redrawn congressional districts focus on the fact that they seem to favor incumbents strongly: four Republicans and two Democrats. Of particular interest is the 6th District, currently held by Ben Chandler- D. Under the new plan, the 6th District would be solidly Democratic. Alice Forgy Kerr, a Republican State Senator from Lexington, referred to the new map as the “Ben Chandler Lifetime Employment Act.” The newly proposed 6th District gives Garrard, Boyle, and Mercer counties to the 2nd District. The 6th District as a whole will shift slightly to the east, thus including more traditionally Democratic counties, and its southern border will move north. Congressman Chandler won reelection against Republican Andy Barr in 2010 by a narrow margin. Mr. Barr has filed to run again, and has stated his intentions to use the changes in the 6th District, which he believes were influenced by Congressman Chandler, as part of his campaign platform.

Under the new plan, the 1st District would not be entirely compact. Most of its area would come from the south-west corner of the state, but it would extend along the Kentucky border to include traditionally Republican counties from the 2nd District. U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers- R. would also be protected under the new plan, maintaining his position in the 5th District. The 5th is set to gain Carter County and part of Boyd County from the 4th and Lincoln County from the 6th.

The legal challenge filed by Scott White also alleges that population discrepancies between the districts render the plan unconstitutional Others, such as Kerr and Thayer, have argued that the plan fails to represent adequately Kentucky’s distinct regions.

According to comments made by House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonburg, it seems that few lawmakers are truly pleased with the plan, but it was enough of a compromise to receive the necessary votes to pass. Democratic governor Steve Beshear stated that he approved the plan in order to keep the political process consistent for possible candidates of the upcoming election.

 

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