FRANKFORT, Ky. — Congressional redistricting that was completed last year may have to be redone in an upcoming special legislative session, adding one more potential complication to what has become a protracted effort by Kentucky lawmakers redraw political boundaries.
Gov. Steve Beshear raised the possibility of redrawing congressional maps during an impromptu press conference Monday outside his Capitol office.
The prospect arose because House Democrats are looking to exclude some 8,500 federal prison inmates from the population count used to redraw legislative districts. The problem is that those prisoners were included when lawmakers reconfigured congressional lines.
Beshear said if lawmakers decide to exclude federal prisoners from legislative and judicial districts, then they’d have to be taken out of the congressional ones as well.
“The idea is to make sure that all of them are done on a consistent basis,” Beshear said.
The governor said the congressional districts would require only “limited” adjustments if that’s the route lawmakers choose to take.
Each decade, lawmakers are required to draw new district boundaries to account for population changes recorded by the U.S. Census Bureau. Kentucky had major population shifts between 2000 and 2010, requiring changes in boundary lines to comply with the federal and state “one person, one vote” mandate.
The issue has spilled over into the court system. The Kentucky Supreme Court struck down lawmakers’ initial plan last year, finding the proposed districts unconstitutional because they weren’t balanced by population.
Since then, the ACLU filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of Louisville-area voters calling for a three-judge panel to redraw legislative boundaries, claiming inaction by lawmakers has left them without adequate representation in the state Legislature. And a group of northern Kentucky residents filed a separate lawsuit in an attempt to force the Legislature to act. They claim rapid growth in northern Kentucky has left them without adequate representation.
A hearing is set for Friday in federal court in Lexington to hear arguments on the federal prisoner issue.
Beshear said he intends to announce by Thursday the date for the special session on redistricting.
“I think the courts ought to have a clear indication that the Legislature is going to step up and address the redistricting issue,” he said. “And so I think it makes good sense to announce this date before Friday.”
The goal is for lawmakers to have a tentative agreement on redistricting before they return to Frankfort so that the matter could be ushered through the legislative process quickly to avoid a protracted special session that comes at a cost of about $60,000 a day.
It takes at least five days for a bill to work through Kentucky’s legislative process, which means taxpayers would foot at least a $300,000 bill.