House approves redistricting plan

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Measure divides Hardin County into six districts, splits precincts

By Marty Finley

After a flurry of failed amendments, the state House of Representatives approved a redistricting plan Wednesday evening that divides Hardin County into six districts and forces one sitting legislator out of the district he now serves.

Under the plan, which now moves to the Senate for approval, only one district would exist solely in Hardin County. Rep. Tim Moore, R-Elizabethtown, no longer would be eligible to serve in the 26th District once his term ends in 2014. His precinct, Tunnel Hill, was shifted to the 18th District, which stretches west through Hardin County and takes in all of Grayson County.

The Democrat-led House passed the legislation, 53-46, Wednesday evening after the proposal made it out of the House State Government Committee on Tuesday.

Before the vote, opponents painted the plan as nothing more than a “political ploy” created through manipulation of U.S. Census Bureau numbers behind closed doors. Moore challenged the plan on the House floor, telling his colleagues the state and country is tired of constant political partisanship, offering an amendment to create a bipartisan redistricting commission he said would remove political bias by taking the process out of the legislature’s hands. The measure failed.

Moore also offered an amendment clarifying legislators are allowed to serve the remainder of current terms in the districts they were elected, which he said would ensure representation in all corners of Kentucky. That measure also failed.

House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, said the amendment was unnecessary because Moore and other legislators would be allowed to serve out the remainder of their terms without interruption, barring their death, resignation or crimes committed that would warrant impeachment.

Prior to the debate, Moore denounced the plan and said it places an emphasis on protecting certain incumbents rather than the constituents they serve.

“I think this is an abomination of a plan,” he said.

When it comes to redistricting, Moore said, there is a pervasive focus on self-centered motivations.

Under the plan, the 26th District would extend into Bullitt County while representing portions of Fort Knox and small pockets of Hardin County in Elizabethtown, Colesburg and Radcliff.

The 25th District remains largely intact in a more compact fashion, shedding a few precincts to trim its population but retaining large portions of Elizabethtown and some precincts in southern Hardin County, including Glendale, Sonora and a portion of Upton.

Rep. Jimmie Lee, D-Elizabethtown, represents the 25th District and said he was not satisfied with the final draft of the plan because of how harshly the county was divided.

“It didn’t hurt me, but it hurts the north end,” Lee said.

The longtime legislator said there still is a question of the plan’s legality after the Kentucky Supreme Court ruled last year’s proposal as unconstitutional because of an imbalance between districts. The ruling reinstated the boundaries for the past decade.

Lee believes the new plan will face the same level of scrutiny through legal challenges.

“I’m not too sure this is going to be the final plan,” Lee said.

Redistricting is required every 10 years to reflect the latest census count. According to the Associated Press, the state’s population increased from 4 million to 4.3 million between 2000 and 2010, forcing a sizable reshaping of legislative districts, each one of which in the House must represent roughly 43,000 Kentuckians.

Areas of Hardin County — primarily sections of Fort Knox, Radcliff, Rineyville and Vine Grove — are paired with Breckinridge and Hancock counties to form the 10th District while Grayson County and sections of Elizabethtown and rural Hardin County make up the 18th District, including sections of Rineyville, Eastview, Stephensburg and Howevalley.

The most geographically extensive local district formed is the 21st District, which includes areas of southern Hardin County and stretches through the entirety of Hart, Metcalfe and Monroe counties to the Tennessee border.

The 27th District, meanwhile, retains all of Meade County while picking up more precincts in Hardin County. According to the plan, the district will include West Point, parts of Fort Knox and more than half a dozen precincts in Radcliff.

Radcliff Mayor J.J. Duvall said he closely monitored the redistricting process as the city weighs its legal options. Duvall publicly opposed attempts to carve up the city and said he believes the presence of multiple legislators, some of whom do not reside in the county, would be detrimental, pointing to one voice as a stronger form of representation.

“Our voice is being diluted and our representation is being diluted,” Duvall said of the plan.

LaRue County, meanwhile, moves from 19th District to the 24th District with Green and Marion counties.

Hardin County Clerk Kenny Tabb said the impact this plan has on Hardin County is similar to last year’s proposal as he expressed fears the county will be underrepresented if the new districts are enacted. Because only one district exists entirely within the county, Tabb said, it will be harder for local representatives to win elections over candidates in counties completely covered by a district.

“They really did Hardin County a grave injustice,” Tabb said.

Added to the division of communities, the plan will divide some precincts, including Eastview, Stephensburg and Upton. Tabb said this will force creation of smaller precincts, which will require more voting machines and more trained precinct workers.

“It would be more expense for the county,” he said.

It is unclear if the Senate will take up the measure in this session because it plans to take up its own redistricting plan next year, according to the Associated Press.

Marty Finley can be reached at (270) 505-1762 or mfinley@thenewsenterprise.com.