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Editorial: Jan. 13, 2013

ISSUE: Legislative redistricting
OUR VIEW: Politics clouds the process

Kentucky’s Senate and House legislative districts need to be redrawn to reflect results of the 2010 Census. It’s only fair.

But government business in Frankfort is not about fairness.

Some areas such as District 25 represented by Jimmie Lee, D-Elizabethtown, experienced significant growth and now contain far too many people. Most areas in far western and eastern Kentucky saw population declines and legislators there represent far too few.

To ensure appropriate representation, each decade the boundaries must be reconfigured. In the state House, each district should have roughly 43,000 constituents. In the state Senate, which has fewer members, the ideal size is just a tad more than Hardin County’s 2010 population count.

Because no legislative elections are scheduled this year, it would be an ideal time to resolve the matter. Without looking over their shoulders at potential opponents, theoretically it could be considered solely on its merits and without the urgency added by a candidate filing deadline.

This, of course, is an issue leftover from the 2012 General Assembly session. Using its typical political approach packed with self-interest and personal protection, the Senate developed its own plan and House members drafted a House plan.

Eventually, both passed and were signed into law but later were rejected in legal challenges. The court orders said both state House and state Senate plans violated equal population guarantees and unnecessarily divided too many counties.

Nothing else happened to resolve this issue in the 2012 session. Nothing much happened during the interim. Now in the legislature’s 2013 session the matter still needs to be resolved.

Some are saying it can’t be done in 2013 because there’s nothing in place and not enough time to draw a plan. Regardless of its impact on fairness and a legal mandate to act, legislative leadership ignores whatever it chooses to ignore.

Because this matter is of high importance to legislators seeking to remain legislators, the process moves slowly and typically is handled secretly. Ideas are floated by majority leadership of the chambers behind closed doors and a finished map is pushed out for approval.

The decisions often are characterized by blatant moves to punish political opponents or to benefit the party in power.

As state Sen. Dennis Parrett, D-Cecilia, has stated repeatedly, it’s time for an independent body to draft a plan for legislative consideration. That’s the only way that a fair and balanced system can be developed without Frankfort politics gumming up the works.

Parrett plans again to file a bill outlining one type of reform. Rep. Tim Moore, R-Elizabethtown, was part of drafting a similar idea in the 2012 session. Gov. Steve Beshear publicly has recommended an idea of that sort.

But don’t look for it to happen.

If the 2013 legislature’s leadership is reluctant to take up redistricting, it certainly will be reluctant to consider any measure that diminishes its authority over political control.

Unfortunately, fairness and doing what’s right seldom trump the powers of self-interest in Frankfort.

This editorial represents a consensus of The News-Enterprise editorial board.