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

03/05/2013 07:21 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 has covered politics for more than 10 years, including 7 years as a reporter for the Lexington Herald-Leader. Follow Ryan on Twitter @cn2Alessi. Ryan can be reached at 502-792-1135 or


  • Mignon Colley wrote on March 06, 2013 05:54 AM :

    Carter County as well as other counties across Kentucky house federal inmates in our local jails. If you are not going to count federal inmates in federal owned prisons how can you in these type lock up arrangements?

  • Mignon Colley wrote on March 06, 2013 06:02 AM :

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

    The above quote leaves out Elliott Co? Did they count the inmates in Elliott?

  • Mignon Colley wrote on March 06, 2013 06:39 AM :

    This shows they are counting over half the prisoners somewhere because we had over 25,000 Feds in Kentucky and the Democrats say they are not counting 8,443. I love Democrat Math.

  • sam pierce wrote on March 06, 2013 06:38 PM :

    Mignon Colley, you are right on about Democrat math. Democrats count prisoners when it to their advantage and don’t count them when it isn’t. This plan must not prevail!!!!!

  • sam pierce wrote on March 07, 2013 11:36 AM :

    How can you count prisoners in the congressional and state supreme court plans and not count them in the state house plan? That is where the inconsistency lies. I bet that the very few states that chose not to count federal prisoners did so across the board: congressional, state house, state senate, and any other statewide plan. If that is the case, then this state house plan is unconstitutional. Also, as was pointed out by minority leader Jeff Hoover, all of the states not counting federal prisoners had agreed to do that before drawing a redistricting plan. No such agreement has passed the General Assembly. This plan must be declared unconstitutional.
    If all prisoners are included, the maximum allowable population of any house district would be 45,563. In totalling up the populations of Elliott, Carter, Boyd, Greenup, and Lawrence: the five counties in house districts 98, 99, and 100, I came to a total of 137,884. Divided by three districts, it comes out to 45,961, which is more than the maximum allowed. Stumbo is trying to protect Rocky Adkins, who knows that the 27,720 Carter County residents will make up a majority of District 99. Stumbo and Adkins are trying to get as many non-Carter County voters in the district as possible, but they are doing so in an unconstitutional way.

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