Redistricting needs to be simplified
BY CHUCK WITT
In February 2018, this column was about the subject of the – incredibly convoluted – legislative voting districts in Kentucky.
Those districts are subject to being re-aligned in 2021-22, as is customary every 10 years following the national Census.
This year, the Kentucky League of Women Voters has made a proposal for a districting map which offers a much more logical arrangement for those districts than that which exists now.
If one looks at the current map, it would not be beyond the pale to question what kind of idiocy prevailed that produced it.
Presently, District 1 stretches across the southern part of the state all the way from and including Fulton County, abutting the Mississippi River, to abut Lincoln, Pulaski and Wayne counties, all located in the center of the state, a straight-line distance of 258 miles.
District 4 similarly stretches across the northern boundary of the state from Oldham and includes a portion of Jefferson to and including a small portion of Boyd County which borders West Virginia, a straight-line distance of 173 miles.
It becomes quickly obvious, when looking at this districting map, that the only possible conclusion is that it was developed in order to situate voting power for one party or the other.
To get a clear idea of what gerrymandering is – and that is, without a doubt, what transpired in the 2013 map for Kentucky – one should take a look at the 1812 map of Massachusetts which was developed for the benefit of then-governor Elbridge Gerry and resulted in the common usage of the term.
The Supreme Court has ruled variously on the issue of gerrymandering. It determined that gerrymandering on the basis of racial or ethnic principles was un-Constitutional. More recent decisions by the Court have avoided requiring districting to be fair based on politically partisan issues, making the process one to fall under the rules of the state and its courts.
So, the only way available for Kentuckians to assure a fair distribution of voter allocation based strictly on population is to change the Kentucky constitution to establish a non-partisan commission to set the boundaries.
Voters want this. Politicians do not.
Now the League of Women Voters of Kentucky has compiled a map which that organization sees as being more rational and fair than the present map. It can be viewed on the website lwvky.org, along with the present map.
The League’s map is based on the 2010 census, so obviously any such map formulated now would be more appropriately founded on the results of the 2020 census and the boundaries suggested would undoubtedly shift somewhat. In fact, the current District 4, which is designated ‘N’ on the League map, still spans the northern portion of the state, excluding only Green County in the east from the previous district.
The Kentucky Court required a re-formulation of the map a few years ago because it was so obviously skewed for partisan purposes (one wonders why the present map is not considered the same) and there was some redrawing of districts.
Still, the present map most assuredly does not represent fair representation of voter distribution, only of voter preferences.
It should be changed but don’t expect it to be made any better under the present system. That system needs to be changed by an amendment to the Kentucky constitution.
Chuck Witt is a retired architect and a lifelong resident of Winchester. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.