Frankfort, KY – The League of Women Voters of Kentucky released a state report today Redistricting Kentucky: A Guidebook for Citizen Participation, defining the redistricting process and why it is an important issue for Kentucky. It also lays out the national League of Women Voters’ recommendations, how other states do their redistricting and makes recommendations for Kentucky and for its citizens in working to ensure a fair and open process.
Kentucky’s 2012 redistricting process resulted in a court suit which delayed clarifying state House and Senate lines until 2013, meaning voters waited over a year to learn how they would be represented. That court suit was costly in terms of the cost of the court process and in terms of the need for a special session in 2013 to correct the problem.
The last redistricting process was also rushed, with bills moving so quickly that citizens had little chance to participate. The 2012 redistricting bills for the state House and Senate were written, amended, voted on by both houses, and signed by the governor in the first 18 days of the regular session. The 2013 special session lasted just five days. Moving that quickly meant a bare minimum of committee meetings, no public hearings and no opportunity for public input. This lack of transparency invites a lack of confidence and allows voters to wonder whether they are choosing their legislators or legislators are choosing their constituents.
As the best way to avoid these problems, the Kentucky League of Women Voters is recommending that Kentucky create an independent commission to make redistricting decisions. Six states already use that method. A commission can:
- Be made up of appointed commissioners reflecting the diversity of Kentucky citizens
- Take responsibility for holding hearings, sharing draft plans, taking input, and deciding on new districts
- Free legislators from responsibility for making choices in which they have a deep personal interest and from the perception that they are effectively choosing their own voters
- Create a transparent, participatory process that can build fair, participatory districts across the Commonwealth.
The League advocates an independent commission approach, created by amending the Kentucky Constitution, as the best approach to improving Kentucky redistricting.
The League also supports lesser improvements that can be made if the independent commission idea does not move forward. An advisory commission is one option. The General Assembly can invite greater transparency and public participation by taking steps like:
- Expanding the time available for redistricting. Assigning interim committees to work on redistricting to allow work before the session begins. More time during the session could be available if candidate filing deadlines were moved to March or April: our current January deadlines have been a main argument that maps had to be finished in just a few weeks.
- Committing to standard good maps: our recommendations for that are on page 5 of the report.
- Working to create maps that can get bipartisan support and pass with more than a simple majority.
Improving Kentucky redistricting will be a four-year Kentucky League of Women Voters effort, culminating with the new redistricting decisions scheduled to be made in 2022. Over those years, the League will work with others interested in this issue. Members will press to improve Kentucky’s redistricting process by informing the public, making specific proposals to legislators, and participating in discussion across the state about how best to do this important work.
The report, Redistricting Kentucky: A Guidebook for Citizen Participation, December 2017, along with other sources of information about redistricting, are available at lwvky.org/redistricting-in-kentucky/
The League of Women Voters of Kentucky, a nonpartisan political organization, encourages the informed and active participation of citizens in government, works to increase understanding of major public policy issues, and influences public policy through education and advocacy. Members include both women and men.