KY Senate redistricting: In the absense of official maps, two approaches to consider

12/27/2011 08:02 AM

(WITH REVISED SPREADSHEETS) — Kentucky lawmakers next week will begin debating what the state legislative maps will look like for the next decade. But so far, they have offered few hints about what the state Senate and House districts would look like.

The 100 House districts are very precise, requiring access to precinct data and maps.

But the 38 Senate districts can be constructed a little easier — especially because senators have traditionally tried to avoid splitting counties that have fewer people than the maximum number for a Senate district (in this case, that ceiling is 119,903, which represents 5 percent more than the ideal district population).

Only three counties have more than that: Jefferson at 741,096; Fayette at 295,803; and Kenton at 159,720.

The ideal state Senate district — Kentucky’s total population divided by 38 — is 114,194. And the minimum is 114,194.

With that in mind, the Pure Politics redistricting lab came up with a couple possible approaches. (DISCLAIMER: These are not official maps, nor have they been leaked. They have been created by putting together the county populations like puzzle pieces to see what fits).

The first version, on the surface, seems to favor Republicans by bumping a couple Democratic incumbents out of their districts. But a closer look also shows it could make a couple districts represented by Republicans a bit more competitive too.

Version 1:

You can look at the make-up of the districts on this file: Senate_GOP_favREVISED.xlsx

Some characteristics:

  • To make the population numbers work, Democratic Sens. Dorsey Ridley, D-Henderson, and Jerry Rhoads, D-Madisonville, would be put into the same district (Henderson, Hopkins, Crittenden and Union).
  • That would create a new district along the Tennessee border and wrap around Bowling Green: Todd, Logan, Butler, Simpson, Allen, Monroe and Metcalfe counties.
  • With the retirement of Republican Sen. Vernie McGaha, R-Russell Springs, his district would get carved up. Russell and Pulaski counties would go to David Williams’ 16th District (to join Wayne, Clinton and Cumberland). And Casey and Adair counties would go to Republican Sen. Jimmy Higdon, R-Lebanon, making that district more Republican.
  • The reconfiguration of Williams’ district would allow McCreary and Whitley counties to join Laurel for a new 21st district that Republican Sen. Tom Jensen of London currently represents.
  • Republican Senate Floor Leader Robert Stivers, R-Manchester would gain GOP Jackson County but also potentially Menifee and Rowan counties. That latter would be a bit of a challenge because is does lean Democratic. But that would allow Sen. Brandon Smith, R-Hazard, to have a more conservative district (Perry, Leslie and Bell would be joined by Johnson, Breathitt and Magoffin).
  • Three of the four Democrats in the east would get solidly Democratic districts. Sen. Ray Jones, D-Pikeville, would lose conservative Johnson County and gain Lawrence, Elliott and Morgan to go with Pike and Martin. Sen. Robin Webb’s district would work out nicely population-wise as Carter, Greenup and Boyd. And Democratic Sen. Johnny Ray Turner of Drift would add Harlan to Floyd, Letcher and Knott counties.
  • Under that scenario, Sen. Walter Blevins, D-Sandy Hook would be the odd man out. A new district of nine counties would stretch from the Natural Bridge state park near Powell County up to the Ohio River in Lewis and Mason counties.
  • A new district (in this case using McGaha’s number of 15) would be created in the fast growing Bullitt and southern part of Jefferson County. Jefferson County also would give some precincts to Republican Sens. Ernie Harris of Crestwood (26th District) and Paul Hornback of Shelbyville (20th District).
  • Sen. Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, would have to add some precincts in northern Fayette County to spread out that county’s population. In addition to the two districts completely within the Fayette County line (Democratic Sen. Kathy Stein’s 13th and Republican Sen. Alice Forgy Kerr’s 12th), Democratic Sen. R.J. Palmer’s 28th District would have to get 45,000 Fayette County voters and Republican Sen. Jared Carpenter of Richmond would get a few precincts as well.

That would look quite different than the current set-up:

Version 2

The second option is more of an “incumbent-protection” model.

This approach seeks to keep districts as close to their current configuration as possible.

To do it though, it would require splitting one county that has fewer than the 119,903: Christian County.

Some voters, about 7,000, would have to go to the 2nd District to make the population numbers work, while the other 66,955 would remain in the 3rd District along with Todd, Caldwell and Logan counties. That district is represented by Sen. Joey Pendleton of Hopkinsville.

In addition, Rhoads and Ridley’s home counties again would be fused together into one district. But the rest of Rhoads’ current 6th District (heavily Democratic Muhlenberg and Ohio counties would stretch north to pick up other Democratic leaning counties of Breckinridge, Hancock and Meade.)

To view that file click here:

Other characteristics, include:

  • The 1st District would get a little tougher for Republican Sen. Ken Winters, R-Murray, by adding Democratic Marshall County.
  • Higdon’s 14th District would get Adair, Casey and Lincoln to go with Marion, Washington and Taylor counties.
  • A new 15th District would still include Bullitt and part of Jefferson County.
  • Williams would still add Russell and Pulaski but would keep Monroe instead of Wayne County. Wayne and McCreary would go to Jensen’s 21st District to join Laurel and Jackson. That would allow Stivers to get Whitley so that his district wouldn’t stretch north as far as Rowan as it did in Version 1.
  • Blevins would still have a district. His 27th District would still keep its core of Elliott, Rowan and Fleming counties but add to it counties currently in the northern parts of the district of Webb and Sen. R.J. Palmer, D-Winchester.
  • Palmer’s district would still include a chunk of Fayette County voters. But unlike Version 1, Republican Sen. Jared Carpenter’s 34th District wouldn’t need Fayette County voters. His district would be Madison, Rockcastle and Estill counties.
  • Hornback’s 20th District would add Anderson County and just a few precincts from Jefferson County.

_(An earlier version of the spreadsheets inadvertently left out Lewis County). _


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