Legislature

UPDATE: Legislature Overrides Congressional Veto on Redistricting

UPDATE ISSUED AT 7:20 PM WEDNESDAY JAN. 20, 2022

FRANKFORT, Ky. (WTVQ) — As expected, the Legislative Assembly on Thursday evening overruled the governor’s veto over congressional redistricting maps, sending them to the secretary of state.

Governor Andy Beshear vetoed Senate Bill 3 (SB 3), a congressional redistricting bill late Wednesday night after the General Assembly adjourned for the day. The Senate moved quickly Thursday, overriding the governor’s veto.

The governor’s veto override happened quickly, as the veto override for SB 3 cleared the Senate chamber by a vote of 25 to 10 and carried it to the House where it was also overruled by a vote of 64 to 24.

Redistricting is the process that determines who represents the people. Legislative map redrawing occurs every ten years after the United States Census Bureau releases decennial census data. The United States Constitution and federal law require redistricting to ensure equal representation among the citizen population.

Redistricting has been and remains the sole responsibility of the duly elected members of the state legislature. Congressional redistricting maps approved by the Legislature meet legal and constitutional requirements and comply with applicable case law.

According to 2020 census data, Kentucky’s population increased 0.1% to just over 4.5 million. Divided among the state’s six congressional districts, this equates to approximately 750,000 residents per district. The gap between the resident populations in each of the six districts has been reduced to a minimum.

SB 3 was submitted to Kentucky Secretary of State Adams for promulgation. This bill has an emergency clause, which means that it is enacted as law within the district lines of the Commonwealth and Congress would immediately comply with its provisions.

UPDATE ISSUED AT 3:20 PM WEDNESDAY JAN. 20, 2022

FRANKFORT, Ky. (WTVQ) — As expected, the State House easily overruled Gov. Andy Beshear’s veto of the House redistricting plan in a 69-23 vote Thursday afternoon. The vote came shortly after 3 a.m.

Beshear vetoed HB2, the redistricting bill, on Wednesday afternoon.

ORIGINAL STORY PUBLISHED AT 6:00 PM WEDNESDAY JAN. 19, 2022

FRANKFORT, Ky. (WTVQ/AP) – Governor Andy Beshear vetoed HB 2, legislation redrawing State House districts, and SB 3, legislation redrawing state congressional districts and Republicans have vowed to replace them quickly.

In the House districts veto, Beshear said the districts appear designed to deprive certain communities of representation. “He is an unconstitutional political gerrymander whoGv Hb 2 Veto1 prevents certain communities from having their voices heard in Frankfurt,” he wrote in his veto message.

House Speaker David Osborne was quick to respond.

“We are disappointed that the governor has chosen to again veto legally enacted legislation,” Osborne said.

“He is wrong on the facts, wrong on the law, and he knows it. This proposal meets all the legal considerations. It does not divide any precincts, divides as few counties as possible and preserves communities of interest. By carefully and intentionally following the guidelines, it even has the added benefit of dramatically increasing minority representation. By issuing this veto, the Governor shows that he is at best ill-informed, at worst in a blatant political posture. We will use our legislative authority to override this veto,” Osborne concluded.

In his veto message on SB 3, Beshear said the measure was crafted without any input from the public. He is most critical of the sprawling First District which has grown even larger. During the debate on the measure in the Legislative Assembly, this face was one of the most questioned issues.

Democrats noted Wednesday that driving from Lexington to Louisville will take the driver through five of the state’s six congressional districts.

“What a joke,” said House Democratic Leader Joni Jenkins.

The measures overwhelmingly approved the Republican-dominated legislature on January 8, signaling that the new borders would likely become law even if the Democratic governor rejects them.

While GOP lawmakers have the political power to override any vetoes, the question is whether the new boundaries will lead to legal challenges. Advocates of the bills said they were confident the decade-long map-making work would withstand any legal action.

“These maps are constitutional,” Republican Rep. Jason Nemes said. “If I drew them, if you drew them, maybe they would be drawn a little differently. But they are constitutional.

The changing boundaries stem from demographic changes over the past decade. Eastern and Western Kentucky generally lost population, while the central and northern sections gained more residents.

Democrats have complained that legislative maps unfairly divide urban areas to benefit Republicans.

In reshaping Kentucky’s six congressional districts, lawmakers kept the only Democratic-held district virtually intact. Democrats feared the Louisville-area 3rd District would be fragmented.

Instead, under the new plan, the 3rd District would continue to cover most of Jefferson County, which includes Louisville — the largest Democratic stronghold in the state. A section of eastern Jefferson County would be joined to the GOP-dominated 2nd District.

Much of the criticism was aimed at expanding the oddly shaped 1st Congressional District to add Franklin County, which includes Democratic-leaning Frankfort in central Kentucky. The district is primarily based in western Kentucky.

“What this is doing to Franklin County is wrong, plain and simple,” Democratic Rep. Derrick Graham of Frankfort said at the time. “Franklin County was and is and always will be a part of central Kentucky, both geographically and in spirit.”

The likely beneficiary of the redrawn boundaries would be 6th District GOP Rep. Andy Barr, the only Kentucky congressman to face a rocky re-election campaign in recent years. Moving Franklin County out of 6th is likely to change the political calculus in what has long been a swing district.

Republican U.S. Representative James Comer, who represents the 1st District, said he would be fine with representing Frankfurt, the state capital, while acknowledging he had expressed another remapping preference for legislative leaders . Comer told The Associated Press that his first choice was to add Barren and Green counties, which he said would have “made the district whole.”

Comer and his wife have homes in Monroe and Franklin counties in Kentucky. They bought the Franklin County home ten years ago when he was state commissioner of agriculture, which meant his job was based in Frankfort, the seat of state government.

The congressional redistricting measure, however, kept Barren and Green counties in the 2nd District. The new map would extend the 1st District hook deeper into central Kentucky to include Franklin and Washington counties and part of Anderson County. The sprawling 1st District would stretch from Fulton County, nestled in the southwest corner of Kentucky, to Frankfort, about 300 miles away.

The 1st District must grow due to population losses reflected in the last census. Comer won by overwhelming margins, and the rural district would remain reliably Republican with the changes.

Legislative criticism of the new maps was not limited to Democrats.

Republican Rep. James Tipton opposed the congressional redistricting bill because it splits Anderson County, which he represents, into two congressional districts — the 1st and 6th districts.

“As I’ve looked at the way the precincts have been divided, quite frankly, there will be people who won’t know who their congressman is,” he said two weeks ago.

Meanwhile, lawmakers also gave final passage on Saturday to a bill that would change the process for legal challenges to redistricting measures. Under the measure, such litigation would be assigned to the plaintiff’s county circuit court.

When debating legislative districts, specifically the 100 House districts, Democrats objected that the GOP-drawn map unfairly divides urban areas to benefit Republicans. The bill recasting the 38 Senate districts easily cleared the Senate, with a handful of lawmakers opposing it.

In eastern Kentucky, Republican Sen. Brandon Smith’s district would be spread across nine counties. He currently represents half a dozen counties.

“I think we deserve to be able to have more reflective neighborhoods there instead of having something as giant as what was created with this map,” he said at the time.

Republican Sen. Paul Hornback, who has decided not to run again, said most of his north-central Kentucky district has been reshuffled elsewhere. Hornback said he understood the changes were inevitable, but added: “I don’t agree with the way this was done, and neither do my constituents.”

Sen. Morgan McGarvey, the House’s top-ranking Democrat, noted that Fayette County would be divided into seven Senate districts under the plan, with a single district entirely within the county.

Such a setup could dilute the county’s political influence, he said. Lexington, the second largest city in the state, is in Fayette County. Proponents of the plan say having more lawmakers representing at least part of the county could actually increase Fayette’s influence.

Republican Senator Max Wise voted for the measure but acknowledged the new realities created by the bill. Wise faces the prospect of representing a reshaped district in southern Kentucky.

“It’s a very tough day for, I’m sure, a lot of us who are losing some of the counties that we’ve been representing for the past few years,” he said ahead of the Jan. 6 vote.

Wise and Smith said they look forward to representing their new counties.

Senate Speaker Robert Stivers, the chamber’s top leader, listed the many Appalachian counties he previously represented during his long legislative career.

Stivers noted that no Senate incumbents were opposed in the same district under the new plan, which he called the “ultimate test of fairness.”

In the State House redistricting plan, four sets of incumbents — evenly split between Republican and Democratic lawmakers — would be placed in the same districts.

Rep. Norma Kirk-McCormick, one of the Republicans facing off against a GOP colleague, said the redistricting vote was one of the toughest she’s done as a lawmaker.

“The hard part is that it puts me in a position where I have to run a primary race against another good Republican candidate,” she said.

According to the new map, she would be placed in the same eastern Kentucky district with Rep. Bobby McCool. She called him a “very good person”.

“Let’s get this show on the road and move on,” she said shortly before the House vote on Jan. 6.