Republicans question Democrats' math on redistricting numbers, including not counting prisoners

03/05/2013 06:21 PM

House Republicans are saying the new proposed district boundaries are out of bounds because the proposed map leaves out federal prisoners housed in five counties, which has a population ripple effect on the rest of the state.

As Pure Politics reported on Monday, House Democrats drew up one version that counted federal inmates and one that didn’t.

On Tuesday, they unveiled the one that doesn’t count 8,443 inmates spread across five counties: Fayette, McCreary, Clay, Martin and Boyd.

Not only did that affect the size of proposed districts in those counties, but it also reduced the total population of the state, and, thus, the idea population of a House district. Under the House Democrats’ proposal, it’s now 43,308 — 86 fewer than the ideal districts under last year’s proposed map that counted the federal inmates.

“That’s how they’re going to make an unconstitutional plan constitutionally is to manipulate the data,” said Steve Robertson, the Kentucky Republican Party chairman, in a phone interview.

The courts threw out proposed House and Senate district maps last year after both maps contained districts that had populations more than 5 percent over the ideal number of constituents for a House district. The districts must stay within that 5 percent threshold either above or below the ideal number, the court ruled.

Robertson provided Pure Politics with a break-down of the district populations using the newly-proposed lines and the U.S. Census data. His findings showed the least-populous district was -5.08 percent off the ideal district size of 43,394 using the full Census numbers the count federal inmates. That’s the 94th District, currently represented by Rep. Leslie Combs, D-Pikeville. It will cover parts of Pike and Harlan counties and all of Letcher County.

The most populous district, according to Robertson’s calculations, is the 77th District in Fayette County represented by Rep. Jesse Crenshaw, D-Lexington. That district is more than 8.75 percent over the ideal district population, according to the GOP’s figures. And that’s because the district contains a federal prison complex with 2,035 inmates.

If the federal inmates aren’t counted, those two districts — the 77th and 94th — would be right at 5 percent above and below, respectively, the ideal population.

Stumbo issued a statement defending the move. He said the national trend is not to count federal inmates, noting 15 states “either have plans adopted or pending which do not county them.”

“Since the deviations from the ‘one man, one vote’ differ from congressional districts to state districts, we know of no authority that prohibits treating federal prisoners differently in different plans,” Stumbo said responding to questions raised by Robertson and House Republican Leader Jeff Hoover of Jamestown. “If it has to be a uniform application as Rep. Hoover suggests, then why can some states count them and others not? Clearly, it is in the discretion of the state legislatures as to how to address this issue.”

About Ryan Alessi

Ryan Alessi joined cn|2 in May 2010 as senior managing editor and host of Pure Politics. He is now pursuing an advanced degree in non-fiction writing from Murray State University and is a regular contributor to Pure Politics. Ryan has covered politics for more than 14 years, including seven years as a reporter for the Lexington Herald-Leader. Ryan can be reached at purepolitics@twcable.com or @mycn2 on Twitter.

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