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.
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.
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.
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.