Stumbo suggests new Senate maps as legislative leaders respond in redistricting court case

05/20/2013 07:02 PM

UPDATED: Legislative leaders pledged in their filings in federal court Monday to move forward with new district maps while the Democratic House Speaker also released his suggestion for Republican-controlled Senate districts.

The General Assembly leaders had to respond Monday to a federal lawsuit brought by a group of Northern Kentuckians led by Boone County Clerk Kenny Brown. The citizens are trying to push the General Assembly to approve new maps using 2010 Census data as soon as possible so that precinct and district lines can be set early.

The Supreme Court had ordered the legislature to redo its maps before the 2014 Election cycle after the courts found last year that the attempted maps were unconstitutional because they split too many counties and at least one district in each map had too many residents.

While Gov. Steve Beshear has pledged to call a special session on the issue this fall, lawmakers still must agree on the numbers to use. Specifically, they must decide whether to count federal prisoners in the population numbers. Some state legislatures have counted them, others haven’t.

In his response on Monday, Democratic House Speaker Greg Stumbo included a Senate map drawn using population figures that didn’t count federal prisoners — the same data used to craft a House district map in March that passed the House but wasn’t taken up in the Senate. That House map pitted nine incumbents against at least one other incumbent. Eight of them were Republicans, who are in the minority.

But in his court response, Stumbo said his suggested Senate map didn’t place any incumbents against each other, which he said should be an incentive for the Republican-controlled Senate to embrace the data that doesn’t count federal prisoners.

“This plan is provided to the Senate and this Honorable Court simply as a proof of concept, to show that no impediment exists to drawing a valid map at this time. It is hoped that this produces a strong incentive for the Senate to track the House population data and promptly resolve this unnecessary litigation,” Stumbo’s court response said. (The full map is at the end of the article).

His map, however, could have an issue because it does split Ohio County into three Senate districts.

The courts last year ruled that the maps must divide the “fewest number of counties.” Only three counties have more people than the ideal number for a Senate district of 114,194. Jefferson, Fayette and Kenton counties. Warren County is close to that with 113,792.

The last version of the attempted redistricting map drew that portion of western Kentucky so that Hopkins and Henderson counties were in the same district. That would put Democratic Sens. Jerry Rhoads of Madisonville and Dorsey Ridley of Henderson in the same district.

UPDATED: Brian Wilkerson, a spokesman for Stumbo, said by not counting the federal prisoners, that would allow for an additional county to be split between districts.

Sen. Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, told Pure Politics on Tuesday that he disagreed. But he said the question of whether or not to count federal prisoners is far from being decided.

Republican Senate President Robert Stivers didn’t acknowledge Stumbo’s suggested map in a statement to the media. Instead, Stivers said:

“Today in Covington, I filed my initial response to a lawsuit in federal court regarding the redistricting of Kentucky house and senate districts. The Senate intends to move forward with a fair and measured process to avoid the risk and expense of further litigation in other courts, both state and federal. I look forward to the resolution of the constitutional law issues necessary to conclude redistricting.”

Stivers told Pure Politics earlier this month he fully expected a special session to tackle redistricting to be called in September or early October. That, he said, would give the constitutionally-required year before the election for legislative candidates to move to newly drawn districts if necessary.

Here’s Stumbo’s full Senate map:

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 ryan.alessi@twcnews.com.

Comments

  • Col Owens wrote on May 21, 2013 09:27 AM :

    It is good to see some progress on this important matter. I hope that the special session can be called as soon as is practicable, to give prospective candidates the greatest amount of time to assess their circumstances and make reasoned decisions about running.

  • sam pierce wrote on May 21, 2013 11:48 AM :

    How hypocritical can Stumbo get? He proposes a senate plan pairing no incumbents, but pairs lots of Republican incumbents in his house plan, even though Republicans are in the minority in the house where you would think that more Democrats would be paired in a non-partisan plan since there are more Democrats to pair. I believe the state senate should refuse to act and allow the courts to choose the plan. We did this in Alabama in 1991 and 1992 when the Republican governor refused to call a special session for Congressional redistricting because he knew the Democrats who controlled the legislature were going to draw extremely partisan districts. The Kentucky senate would be rolling the dice if they refused to act and told the governor to save the money by not calling a special session, and let the courts decide, but we know house Republicans would get a much better plan if the courts decide unless the judges are all partisan Democrats similar to Stumbo. Also, splitting a small county such as Ohio three ways is not going to pass muster, and neither will refusing to count federal prisoners who were counted in the Congressional and state supreme court plans.

  • sam pierce wrote on May 22, 2013 11:23 AM :

    Ryan, you say that only Jefferson, Fayette, and Kenton have more than the ideal 114,194 (which counts federal prisoners), and that Warren is close with 113,792. You forgot Boone County, which grew from 86,810 in 2000 to 118,811 in 2010. Boone County is 4,617 above the ideal population, yet Stumbo would not split Boone County. I believe a senate district encompassing only the majority of Boone County should have about 4,000 people under the ideal population because it is so fast-growing and already has way more than an ideal district if the county is left whole for the entire decade. Redistricters should strive to get close to the ideal population, remembering the plus/minus 5% rule, but should also anticipate population trends. High growth districts should be under the ideal and areas that are losing population should be over the ideal. That way the districts are not so out of whack when the new 2020 population figures are announced. Also, in looking back at the state senate plan declared unconstitutional last year, I believe the senate plan was OK except for the numbering of Districts 4 and 13. If the senate plan had just left Kathy Stein’s district number at 13 and numbered the new district in northeast Kentucky as District 4, I believe the senate plan would have passed muster. Perhaps, also, they should not have split Warren County, since its population is currently just below the ideal, even though it is also fast-growing. I know they did that in response to Stumbo putting Rep. DeCesare in a house district with two other Republican incumbents. The senate hoped to create an opportunity for DeCesare to become a state senator. If Stumbo hadn’t pulled such shenanigans, then the splitting of Warren County would not have been considered.

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