Ralph B. Davisrdavis@civitasmedia.com
May 21, 2013
FRANKFORT — House Speaker Greg Stumbo is responding to a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union, which challenges the state’s current legislative district boundaries.
Typically, legislative boundaries are redrawn two years after the decennial census. The districts are redrawn to account for shifting populations and make districts as close to equal in population as possible.
That did not happen after the 2010 census, however. After a contentious battle between the two houses in 2012 over where to draw the lines, new boundaries were finally approved, but were then rejected by the Kentucky Supreme Court as unconstitutional. As a result, Kentucky is still using the same districts that were drawn to reflect the 2000 census.
The ACLU filed the lawsuit May 10 in U.S. District Court, in Covington. The suit seeks to prevent the Board of Elections and the Secretary of State from using the current legislative district boundaries in any future elections.
“Despite our admonition to House and Senate leadership last year to enact constitutionally permissible legislative districts during the Regular Session, the General Assembly failed to do so necessitating the filing of this lawsuit,” ACLU Kentucky Executive Director Michael Eldridge said. “The General Assembly’s initial failure to adopt lawful maps in 2012, and their failure to enact any maps during the 2013 Regular Session, denies voting equality to large portions of the state, particularly those voters in Northern Kentucky.”
Stumbo did not disagree, and he said legislators should move swiftly to redraw the lines to prevent the decision from being taken out of their hands.
“No one wants to preserve legislative independence more than I do,” Stumbo said. “That’s why the House passed a solid redistricting plan last session and urged the Senate to do the same. Sadly, continued inaction pushes us closer to the brink of federal intervention. I can’t imagine why anyone would want federal judges to do our job.”
Stumbo seemed to place blame for the delay on the Republican-controlled Senate. During the General Assembly earlier this year, the House passed a redistricting plan for House districts and Democratic leaders vowed to pass any Senate redistricting plan that emerged from that chamber. Senate Republicans, however, chose to wait until next year to take up the issue and did not concur with the new House district map.
“All the Senate has to do is offer a valid plan and I will join in asking for an immediate special session to resolve this once and for all,” Stumbo said. “The House plan has been public for months, and it is time to wrap this up. The Senate knows I stand ready to act.”