The decen­ni­al exer­cise in futil­i­ty that’s called redis­trict­ing has been embarked on once again and, as usu­al, those involved in the process have botched it.

Every ten years, leg­is­la­tures are required to redis­trict their states due to the shift­ing pop­u­la­tion den­si­ties fol­low­ing the lat­est cen­sus. Some states may actu­al­ly gain or lose rep­re­sen­ta­tives due to the loss or gain of population.

Figure 1 — the cur­rent (2013) Kentucky con­gres­sion­al districts.

Ideally, this process estab­lish­es dis­tricts in close com­pli­ance with the require­ments of equal rep­re­sen­ta­tion for all indi­vid­u­als resid­ing with­in a district.

Kentucky’s pop­u­la­tion is cur­rent­ly about 4.4 mil­lion and is rep­re­sent­ed by six con­gres­sion­al dis­tricts.  The num­ber of dis­tricts in Kentucky has not changed since the last redis­trict­ing and each dis­trict rep­re­sents about 733,000 indi­vid­u­als.  Of course, that is if the dis­tricts are set as they should be — but they are not.  They prob­a­bly nev­er have been since both Republicans and Democrats are guilty of try­ing to estab­lish these dis­tricts to ben­e­fit their own par­ty.  It just so hap­pens that, in 2022, Republicans con­trol both hous­es in the Kentucky leg­is­la­ture so they are call­ing the shots.

One thing that should be remem­bered is that, fol­low­ing the pro­posed redis­trict­ing map first pre­sent­ed after the 2010 cen­sus, the Kentucky Supreme Court ruled it uncon­sti­tu­tion­al and it had to be re-done.

Figure 2 — pro­posed con­gres­sion­al dis­tricts pre­pared by the Kentucky League of Women Voters.

So, let’s look at some maps.

Figure 1 shows the cur­rent (2013) con­gres­sion­al dis­tricts.  This one is bad enough.  District 1 stretch­es all the way across the bot­tom of the state from the Mississippi River to Wayne County, and then up the cen­ter of the state to Marion County.  And District 4 extends from east­ern Jefferson County across the north­ern bor­der of the state into Boyd County, abut­ting West Virginia.

Figure 2 is a map pre­pared by the Kentucky League of Women Voters.  While one can­not read­i­ly ascer­tain the polit­i­cal lean­ings of those who worked on this pro­posed map, the first thing that becomes evi­dent is that each dis­trict is more com­pact and, one might rea­son­ably assume, is based more com­plete­ly on pop­u­la­tion den­si­ty rather than polit­i­cal boundaries.

And now for Figure 3, the map that is cur­rent­ly being pro­posed to be enact­ed for the next ten years.  District 1 is now pro­posed to run across the bot­tom of the state, much as it does now, but then it takes a dog­leg turn and scam­pers north all the way up to and includ­ing Franklin County.

If a can­di­date in District 1 wants to vis­it his con­stituents across the full length of his dis­trict, he would be trav­el­ing over 325 miles!  And that’s in a straight, dog­legged line, not actu­al dis­tance by highway.

Figure 3 — Proposed con­gres­sion­al map for Kentucky by the cur­rent legislature.

The remain­ing dis­tricts have under­gone mod­est changes, at least as appar­ent on the map, but there is no doubt that any shifts were made to advan­tage the Republican par­ty by weak­en­ing the two dis­tricts which are strong­ly Democrat — Jefferson and Fayette — espe­cial­ly when one looks more close­ly at the pro­posed Kentucky leg­isla­tive dis­tricts, which have con­cur­rent influ­ence on the Congressional districts.

Closer to home, District 73 in which Clark County resides will be altered by the new map and will no longer extend south into part of Madison County but will encom­pass the east­ern por­tion of Fayette County, and the only appar­ent rea­son for this change is to dilute the Democratic pre­pon­der­ance in Fayette by inject­ing part of Republican Clark into it.

In the final analy­sis, two things should happen.

One: the Kentucky Supreme Court should throw out the pro­posed map (the one by the leg­isla­tive com­mit­tee) because it is a hor­ren­dous exam­ple of ger­ry­man­der­ing.  In fact, District 1 is so con­vo­lut­ed it comes close to mim­ic­k­ing the dis­trict cre­at­ed in 1812 in Massachusetts which result­ed in the term gerrymandering.

Two: the state con­sti­tu­tion should be amend­ed so that mem­bers of the state leg­is­la­ture can­not dic­tate how redis­trict­ing is man­dat­ed.  It would be accept­able to have an even num­ber of Republican and Democrat mem­bers con­sti­tute a part of any redis­trict­ing com­mit­tee, but the major­i­ty of the com­mit­tee should con­sist of strict­ly non-par­ti­san indi­vid­u­als com­mit­ted to pro­duc­ing a map that fair­ly reflects pop­u­la­tion con­cen­tra­tions with­out regard to any polit­i­cal party.

Otherwise, every ten years Kentucky cit­i­zens will be faced with this cha­rade which will favor whichev­er par­ty hap­pens to be in pow­er at the time.

  • Chuck Witt

    Chuck is a retired archi­tect, a for­mer news­pa­per colum­nist, and a life­long res­i­dent of Winchester.