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August 27, 2013

Redistricting passes: Maps’ fate in federal judges’ hands

LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — FRANKFORT —The fate of new legislative district maps now is in the hands of three federal judges after the General Assembly overwhelmingly passed the bill Friday on a largely bipartisan basis.

The Senate map places no incumbents together and passed the Senate Friday morning 35-2. The two nay votes were from senators objecting not to the Senate plan, but to the House map. The two chambers usually agree to pass the other’s plan without changes.

The Senate map “treats the minority (Democratic) caucus in a way they’ve rarely been treated,” said Sen. Joe Bowen, R-Owensboro. It represents a “new attitude by the Senate majority,” he said.

Several Democratic senators, including Minority Leader R.J. Palmer, D-Winchester, commended the Republican leadership and President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, for the fair treatment they received. Palmer said Stivers even consulted him on the new map.

About the only question that had raised about the map is that District 4, represented by Democrat Dorsey Ridley of Henderson, is 6.75 percent below the ideal district population size. The courts have set a general limit on population deviance from the ideal size at plus or minus 5 percent.

But Stivers said courts have allowed such deviations if they are the result of other compelling state interests, which in this case, he said, was the desire not to split counties or pair incumbents. He contended the district diminishes no one’s vote because it’s actually under the ideal size, although others have said that means all votes in the other 37 districts are diminished, no matter how slightly.

“It is defensible within the realm of the Kentucky Constitution and the U.S. Constitution and the Fourteenth Amendment,” Stivers told the Senate before the vote.

Sen. Dennis Parrett, D-Elizabethtown, objected to the way the House plan divides Hardin County six ways while Sen. John Schickel, R-Union, voted against it because some of his constituents are plaintiffs in a federal lawsuit challenging the previous legislative districts and asking the judges to draw new ones.

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