A move to amend the provisions of Kentucky’s constitution that deal with redistricting has been introduced in the state Senate. State Senator Robert Stivers’s bill would change the laws around redistricting, and give more direction for how medium-sized counties could be split.
Right now, the constitution says that any county that can be made one whole district cannot be split. But Stivers’s language would allow some counties that can’t be split under that rule to now be open to divisions.
“The example would be Pulaski County, instead of cutting it up five ways and not having one wholly contained district in Pulaski County, they have five partial districts in Pulaski County. That would make it clear that you would need to make one whole district then split the rest,” he says.
The bill would mostly affect the House redistricting plans, because the Senate tends to keep counties whole whenever possible. The bill would also defer to federal rules on redistricting, not state rules and precedent set by state courts. The deference to federal law was the main argument the Legislative Research Commission made to the Supreme Court during this year's redistricting lawsuit.
In that state Supreme Court ruling, Chief Justice John Minton questioned why lawmakers hadn’t tried to change the rules before. Stivers says that ruling provided some of the impetus for his bill.
“It impacted it, it was not the sole or exclusive reason but we all knew after having done redistricting that it was problematic in trying to comply with Section 33 in modern times. And that discussion has been ongoing since it was raised in the Supreme Court.”
Stivers says he hasn’t had formal discussion with the House on the issue yet. And since the bill would amend Section 33 of the state Constitution, it would have to be ratified by voters this fall. If that happens, it would allow the new rules to be in effect for the legislature's second attempt at redistricting next year.