LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The League of Women Voters (LWV) of Kentucky held a virtual town hall Wednesday to demystify the redistricting process that will soon take place in the commonwealth and all around the country.
The process follows the U.S Census every 10 years as the lines for Congressional districts and state Senate and House districts are redrawn to match shifting populations.
When state lawmakers redraw the lines, either in a special session later this year or in early 2022, Kentucky will retain its six Congressional seats as the state’s population increased by just over 150,000 in the last decade.
“The way those districts are drawn will have a significant impact on how well Kentucky citizens will be represented in Congress and in our state legislature for the next 10 years,” said Fran Wagner, the President of the LWV of Kentucky.
Wagner argued that Kentucky's current system of redistricting — which gives the power entirely and exclusively to the legislature — is unfair and ripe for corruption.
The LWV of Kentucky has called for reforms to the process that would bring in independent commissioners in an effort to prevent lawmakers from taking advantage of the process through gerrymandering, or the practice of redrawing districts to unfairly advantage one party.
“Gerrymandering undermines democracy,” said LWV member Dee Pregliasco Wednesday. “We want voters to choose the representatives. We don’t want the representatives choosing us.” She explained that gerrymandered districts reduce competition and increase polarization.
University of Kentucky law professor Josh Douglas also spoke during the town hall. He emphasized that Kentucky’s method of redrawing districts allows “partisan legislators to rig the rules of the game by drawing maps with their incumbency in mind.”
“The very people who are most self-interested in how elections are run shouldn’t be the ones that make the rules,” he said.
This is why RepresentUs, a nonpartisan anti-corruption organization, recently said Kentucky is at “extreme” risk of partisan gerrymandering.
“State law grants sitting legislators complete control over the redistricting process, with no apparent constraints on drawing the lines for partisan gain,” RepresentUs research manager Jack Noland said. He added that even if Gov. Andy Beshear vetos the legislature's redistricting plan, it will likely be approved. “While some states require a super majority vote to override a gubernatorial veto, Kentucky requires a simple majority in each chamber of the General Assembly,” Noland said. With 75 Republicans in the House and 30 in the Senate, a simple majority is easy to come by.
Adding to the possibility of extreme gerrymandering in Kentucky is the fact that, for the first time ever, Republicans will have all the power. After gaining control of the state House in 2016, the GOP will have full control over this round of redistricting.
As former Republican State Representative Bob Heleringer recently wrote in the Courier-Journal, no one should be surprised when Republicans work to undo what he called “the hundreds of redistricting travesties voted into law by the Democrats down through the decades.” Or, as he put it, “what goes around comes around.”