The Richmond Register

Local News

August 19, 2013

Federal court ruling complicates redistricting process

FRANKFORT — A federal court ruling has complicated the schedule and process of the special session of the General Assembly that convened Monday with the intention of passing redistricting maps by Friday.

The General Assembly is defending two federal suits — one by northern Kentucky individuals and the other by the American Civil Liberties Union — seeking to force it to pass constitutionally-appropriate maps or in the alternative asking the federal judges to draw new maps.

Last Friday, federal Judges William Bertlesman, Gregory van Tatenhove and Danny Boggs issued an order declaring the existing legislative maps drawn in 2002 unconstitutional and prohibiting their use in any future elections.

That set off a weekend of motions by Democratic House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, asking the court to withdraw or amend the order by Monday afternoon.

But after an unusual teleconference late Monday afternoon, during which the judges heard arguments from attorneys from all sides, the court granted the plaintiffs until 5 p.m. Tuesday to file briefs opposing Stumbo’s motions.

Under the U.S. Constitution, state legislatures must draw new legislative districts to reflect essentially equal populations every 10 years following the U.S. Census count.

In 2012, the General Assembly passed new legislative maps, but they were subsequently declared unconstitutional by state courts. While the House passed a new map for its districts this past spring, the Senate declined to act upon it.

Subsequently, the two federal lawsuits were filed and a Sept. 23 trial date was set by the federal panel. That prompted Gov. Steve Beshear to call the special session that convened Monday to pass new, constitutionally-appropriate maps the court could review before the Sept. 23 hearing.

Then came Friday’s order declaring the 2002 maps immediately void.

According to Stumbo and his attorneys — Pierce and Anna Whites — that leaves no way to conduct special elections for any vacancies that might occur before the 2014 elections. It would also require that the maps enacted in the special session contain an emergency clause that would make them effective immediately.

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