Senate Republican leaders unveiled a redistricting map Thursday that pits no incumbents against each other and seemingly does little to bolster the GOP’s hold of the chamber.
Senate President Robert Stivers said Senate Democratic leaders offered input on the “fair” plan as early as Wednesday. He expects the Senate will pass the map by a wide margin Aug. 23, the fifth and possibly final day in a special session that begins Monday to tackle legislative and judicial redistricting.
“Having spoken with several (Senate Democrats), I believe they are satisfied, one with their districts, but more importantly the process and the legalities of the plan that we have put forth,” Stivers, R-Manchester, said.
The proposed map would add Owen and Gallatin counties to the 7th Senate District, which includes Franklin County, and remove a portion of Fayette County from its boundaries. The district also covers Woodford and Anderson counties.
Sen. Julian Carroll, D-Frankfort, said Thursday he expected to pick up Owen County based on the 2012 redistricting map, which was later declared unconstitutional by the Kentucky Supreme Court. He had not seen a copy of the Senate map when reached via phone by The State Journal.
“This is essentially what they gave me last time,” Carroll said. “… I’m pleased with my district; I don’t have any problem with that. It really gives me basically a more rural district.”
Democrats outnumber Republicans 5,446 to 1,930 in Owen County and 3,990 to 1,585 in Gallatin County, according to state voter registration statistics. In all, the proposed 7th
Senate District would cover 115,075 Kentuckians.
Stivers had pledged to not draw boundaries that would include more than one incumbent, Carroll said.
“I’m very pleased that (Stivers) kept his word,” he said.
Stivers said the Senate’s redistricting map “respects the will of the people” in maintaining current membership. He said Democrats had more input on the plan “than any minority party has ever had” during the typically contentious redistricting process.
“In the history of Kentucky,” added Senate Majority Leader Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown.
In the original Senate redistricting map passed in 2012, for instance, Democratic Sen. Kathy Stein of Lexington would have been forced out of the chamber entirely after the 13th Senate District was moved from downtown Lexington about 100 miles to the northeast.
Republican Sen. Joe Bowen of Owensboro said some might criticize Senate GOP leadership because it wasn’t “political enough” in its plan.
House Speaker Greg Stumbo is scheduled to unveil his chamber’s redistricting plan 1 p.m. Friday. He and Stivers have said they hope the special session lasts the minimum five days, and both recently met with Gov. Steve Beshear to discuss the upcoming session.
“I anticipate each chamber will pass the other’s map and the session will not last more than five days,” Stumbo said in a statement. “We’re on target to meet that commitment.”
House Minority Leader Jeff Hoover, R-Jamestown, introduced a House GOP redistricting map Aug. 8 that would have four incumbents from each party competing in the same districts, but that plan received no traction with Democratic leadership.
Hoover held the Senate’s redistricting plan as an example for an ideal House plan.
“Today’s unveiling of the redistricting plan in the Senate proves, just like the proposal we released last week, that the job of redistricting can be done in a way that is fair and equitable to Democrats and Republicans, and to current members of both chambers,” Hoover said Thursday in a statement.
Beshear called the special session after the Kentucky Supreme Court found maps passed in 2012 unconstitutional and in violation of state and federal “one man, one vote” mandates.
A group of Northern Kentucky residents and the American Civil Liberties Union have sued the Legislature in federal court, claiming the maps are based on outdated U.S. Census figures and left them with inadequate representation in the General Assembly. A three-judge panel is poised to redraw legislative and judicial boundaries if the lawmakers fail to pass constitutional maps.
The proposed Senate map splits only three counties — Jefferson, Fayette and Kenton — and will pass legal muster if challenged in court, Stivers said.
One district, the 4th Senate District in Western Kentucky represented by Democrat Dorsey Ridley of Henderson, falls short of the standard 5 percent deviation of an ideal Senate district of roughly 114,200 constituents. The 4th Senate District contains 106,696 Kentuckians, 6.57 percent below the optimal population.
Stivers said the 5 percent deviation range is presumptive and having a lower population number would strengthen a person’s vote.
“We feel comfortable being below the deviation range because we are not diluting anyone’s vote, which is the whole premise about equal representation, equal protection and one person, one vote,” he said.