Supreme Court's full redistricting ruling says maps must stick to 5% rule and minimum counties divided

04/26/2012 12:10 PM

The Kentucky Supreme Court’s 27-page ruling makes it clear that when lawmakers try again next year to redraw state House and Senate districts, they must only divide the fewest number of counties. And they cannot create districts which have populations that are more than 5 percent greater — or less — than the optimum number of constituents.

Both the House and Senate maps were flawed for those reasons, said the decision released April 26 — two months after the initial brief decision that threw out the new maps. The decision ordered this year’s legislative elections to be run under the 10-year-old legislative maps. Click here to download the decision: 2012-SC-000091-TG.PDF

“The Kentucky House of Representatives and Kentucky Senate redistricting plans of House Bill 1 both contain at least one district with a population deviation greater than 5 percent from the ideal district,” the ruling says. “And the (Legislative Research Commission) has not carried its burden of proving this excessive population variation is a result of a consistently applied rational state policy.”

Lawyers for the legislature had argued that the total variation between the smallest district and most populous one was 10 percent or less, which they said was acceptable under federal law.

But the Supreme Court said that argument wasn’t good enough.

A proposed 24th House District would have been 5.38 percent over the ideal district population and the 8th Senate District, currently represented by Sen. Joe Bowen, included Daviess and Ohio counties and would have had a population of 5.52 percent greater than the ideal.

The Supreme Court ruling also said the legislature needs to stick to dividing the fewest counties: 24 counties in the House map and four in the Senate’s map.

The court’s ruling also answers the legislative leaders’ argument that returning to the old maps passed in 2002 violate equal representation because the populations have grown unevenly over the last decade.

The Supreme Court said there is no way to avoid that because “as an unconstitutional statute, House Bill 1 (the redistricting bill) is null and void. The bill no longer exists and cannot be implemented,” the ruling says.

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