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ISSUE:House redistricting plan
OUR VIEW:Independent thinking is needed
The state House of Representatives’ redistricting plan is going nowhere.
Like every law, it must be passed by both legislative chambers and the Senate will not take action on the House’s proposal, which is designed to balance population between districts in accordance with the 2010 census.
The Senate decided against taking up its own required redistricting in this year’s short session and, by its inaction, broke with a long-held tradition of approving the other chamber’s recommendations for itself.
Maybe it’s just as well. The Senate probably saved state lawyers some trouble defending it in court. If you recall, both chambers reconfigured boundaries during the 2012 General Assembly only to have the legislation thrown out by the courts.
A key legal objection in the 2012 proposal is one reason Hardin County is carved into six segments. State law requires the plan to minimize the number of counties split by legislative districts. The courts set that number at 24.
Because the House must have approximately 43,000 residents per district that’s a difficult task. Only 23 of Kentucky’s 120 counties have more than 43,000 residents, which means the boundaries must chop up growing and prosperous communities like Hardin County and make them into “donors” for their smaller, rural neighbors.
That’s why the House plan has Hardin County divided six ways and part of districts stretching along the Ohio River and reaching as far south as the Tennessee line.
That requirement is a remnant of 19th century thinking that created an excess number of county governments to address the era’s restrictive travel issues and satisfy political desires of the period.
But logically, why is it essential that tiny places like Hancock, Monroe or Metcalfe counties remain whole while it’s OK to split Radcliff’s governmental footprint four ways? Radcliff has 21,688 residents, making it larger than 68 counties that receive protection in this process. Why fracture that community’s voice in favor of another?
Of course, 19th century politics is not the only culprit. There’s 21st century wheeling and dealing going on, too.
Two precincts inside Elizabethtown’s northern city limits were sliced away from the rest to make up the new 18th District lines that stretch west and take in all of Grayson County. That finger of land inching across the middle of Hardin County just happens to take in the home of state Rep. Tim Moore.
A Republican in the Democratic-controlled House, Moore found himself in a similar position in the court-rejected 2012 plan. Considering that 11 incumbent Republicans are grouped against each other in seats across the state, it seems Moore’s situation is not isolated and not accidental.
Appropriate representation is a critical issue for all Kentuckians. It seems obvious fair and balanced boundaries are not the sole concern of legislative leaders.
This process deserves to be designed by an independent panel that uses reason, logic and community relationships to balance the districts. At the very least, it deserves to be drawn without consideration about where current officeholders reside.
The party in power should not be able to use such a vital piece of legislation to reward friends and punish opponents.
Mooreoffered amendments again this year in hopes of creating an independent means to draft reasonable boundaries. Sen. Dennis Parrett, D-Elizabethtown, has offered ideas along the same line. After seeing how Hardin County was mistreated in this year’s House plan, it’s time for all representatives who have a sliver of supporters here to support the call for a new process to develop the next plan.
Unfortunately, politicians don’t rely on logic.
This editorial represents a consensus of The News-Enterprise editorial board.