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

05/20/2013 06:02 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 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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