Kentucky House GOP leaders unveil redistricting plan

December 30, 2021 GMT

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Four sets of Kentucky House incumbents — split equally among Republican and Democratic lawmakers — would be placed into the same districts under a redistricting plan unveiled by House GOP leaders Thursday.

Under the proposed map, two sets of rural GOP lawmakers on opposite ends of the state would be paired with each other in newly drawn districts. Two pairs of urban Democrats would be placed into the same Louisville districts. Those incumbents would face off in the 2022 spring primary, if the proposal wins legislative approval and the lawmakers decide to seek reelection.

The new boundaries for the 100-member chamber also would create two additional districts where the majority of voters would represent ethnic and racial minority populations, House Speaker David Osborne said.

The long-awaited remapping plan revealed by Osborne comes days before lawmakers convene next week for the start of their 2022 session. Redistricting looms as the top priority in the opening week. Redistricting plans for congressional and state Senate districts haven’t yet been revealed. Republicans hold supermajorities in both Kentucky legislative chambers.

Top House Democrats responded that the timing of the plan’s release was “an attempt at fake transparency.” They said it gives Kentuckians little time to review the new boundaries and to offer input.

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Noting that the new boundaries will be in place for a decade, House Democratic leaders Joni Jenkins, Derrick Graham and Angie Hatton said in a joint statement, “The last thing we should be doing as a legislature is rushing something so important and so long-lasting.”

The leaders said they will review the map with their Democratic colleagues and discuss whether the GOP proposal meets legal and constitutional guidelines. The Democrats also said they are preparing an alternative redistricting plan.

Redistricting bills will be put on a fast track. Legislators are likely to be in session on Saturday, Jan. 8, to wrap up the work and send the new maps to Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear, Osborne said.

Lawmakers also plan to consider legislation in those opening days to extend the filing deadline for candidates, which is now Jan. 7.

Under the House plan, the new boundaries would double the number of districts — from two to four — where the majority of voters would represent ethnic and racial minority populations, Osborne said. Also under the plan, two other districts would have “increased minority influence,” he said.

The new House district map would not divide any precinct in the state, he said.

“We tried to draw districts as compactly as we possibly could,” Osborne said at a news conference.

The redistricting plan complies with legal and constitutional requirements, he said.

Their supermajority status in the General Assembly puts Republicans in full control of the once-a-decade redistricting process. Their lopsided majorities also created complications due to population losses in many rural counties in eastern and western Kentucky represented by GOP lawmakers.

“Trying to fit those pieces back together in consideration of that population loss was very difficult and resulted in a lot of change,” Osborne said.

After months of work preparing the new boundaries, the speaker expected some pushback.

“I understand that there will be criticisms of it,” he said. “I’m sure that some of our own members have criticisms of it.”

If the plan remains intact, two GOP House incumbents from eastern Kentucky — Reps. Norma Kirk-McCormick and Bobby McCool — would be placed in the same district. The same would apply to two Republican members from western Kentucky — Reps. Lynn Bechler and Jim Gooch Jr.

On the Democratic side, Reps. Mary Lou Marzian and Josie Raymond would be paired in the same district, as would Reps. McKenzie Cantrell and Lisa Willner.

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Associated Press writer Piper Hudspeth Blackburn in Frankfort contributed to this report.