The eligibility of two Louisville Metro Council candidates is in question because they were drawn out of their districts during the redistricting process late last year.
Metro Council approved new maps that shifted the boundaries of Louisville’s 26 political districts last November. Those districts group neighborhoods or regions of Jefferson County together for representation in local government. Louisville’s district maps are redrawn every 10 years following the U.S. Census.
For Ameerah Granger, a Democratic candidate for Metro Council’s District 1, the redistricting process drew her home in Chickasaw into District 5. She had lived there for 15 years. In January, Granger moved into a rental property just a few blocks away, in the new District 1, so she could continue to run for office.
But when Granger applied to temporarily fill the District 1 seat after Council Member Jessica Green announced her resignation earlier this year, the Jefferson County Attorney’s Office told her she didn’t qualify. State law requires Metro Council candidates to live in the district they seek to represent for one year prior to the election.
“My only goal was and is to represent my community on Louisville’s Metro Council and work hard to empower and serve my fellow citizens,” she said in a statement.
A spokesperson for the County Attorney’s Office told WFPL News that because Granger didn’t move into the new District 1 before the maps were signed into law on November 16, she didn’t meet that requirement in state statute.
“Once the redistricting ordinance became effective, it was effective for all purposes,” said spokesperson Josh Abner in an email. “Because of the period between redistricting and her move to the current address, she has not been a resident of District 1 for the 1-year period required by KRS § 67C.103(6).”
Not only was Granger not allowed to interview for the temporary District 1 appointment, her qualification to run for the District 1 seat in the May 17 primary is also now being challenged.
Kathleen Parks, a Democrat running against Granger for that seat, filed a lawsuit in late March asking for Granger to be removed from the ballot ahead of primaries citing that same state statute.
“It’s important that we protect the integrity of the election process,” Parks said, when reached by phone. “We owe it to the public, the taxpayers. If one person feels they can get away with it, then anyone who comes after them will just give an arbitrary address and feel like it’s not necessary to follow the law.”
In response to the legal challenge, Granger said she consulted with the County Attorney’s Office and local elections officials about how the redistricting process would affect her ability to run in District 1 prior to filing.
She said their assertion that she isn’t qualified based on residency requirements seems unfair, because it means she would have had to uproot her life before the maps were finalized. The Count Attorney’s interpretation of the law also suggests that, if she hadn’t moved, she wouldn’t have been able to run for District 5, she said. The shifted boundary means she didn’t have a contiguous year of residency in either district.
“My case brings up a novel issue caused by redistricting, and the law is unclear,” Granger said. “I am frustrated to be placed in this awkward position. I attended open sessions and voiced concerns. We could not control that the lines were redrawn.”
In reviewing all Metro Council candidate filings, WFPL News also found another candidate running in the May 17 primary who may not qualify due to redistricting.
Cassandra Colón, who is campaigning as a Democrat in District 15, submitted paperwork to the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance in February showing a home address in South Louisville. Under the maps approved last November, that address is now in District 3, not 15.
Colón declined to respond to WFPL’s questions about whether she lives at the address she provided, but information from the Jefferson County Property Valuation Administration shows Colón has owned that property since at least 2018.
A ‘frustrating’ lack of due diligence
Even if these candidates are found to be ineligible to run for Metro Council, their names are still likely to appear on this months’ primary ballots.
Ballots must be printed at least 50 days before an election, according to state law. Local officials started printing ballots for the May 17 primary in late March.
In Louisville, the Jefferson County Clerk’s Office administers the election and accepts the paperwork candidates for elected office must file. But Erran Huber, a spokesperson for the Clerk’s Office, said in a statement that local elections officials do not “police or review filing papers submitted for candidate registry.”
“We accept them as they are submitted for public record-keeping,” Huber said. “It is the responsibility of any candidate for office in Jefferson County to ensure that their information is correct upon filing with the county and the state.”
Neither state nor local elections officials take any responsibility for ensuring Metro Council candidates whose names appear on the ballot are actually qualified to hold that office. The only way for an unqualified candidate to be removed from the ballot is for their political opponent to challenge their eligibility in court.
“It’s very frustrating and something needs to be done about it,” Parks said. “Otherwise, these kinds of cases will continue to emerge and not only be frustrating not only for candidates, but also the citizens and taxpayers across the commonwealth. Bills need to be passed at the state legislature.”
In the Granger case, attorneys for County Clerk Bobbie Holsclaw said in a written response to Parks’ complaint that the primary ballots have already been printed and they argue it would be “costly, burdensome, and impractical” to reprint them. The attorneys have suggested posting a notice to voters, if any candidates are disqualified. Their names, however, will still appear on the ballot
“A notice setting out this information would be posted at all polling locations and included with all absentee ballots mailed to voters,” the court filing read.
Jefferson County Circuit Court Judge Olu Stevens is expected to hear arguments May 3 on whether Granger should be disqualified. As of Monday, no District 15 candidate had filed suit to challenge Colón’s qualifications.
Breya Jones contributed to this story.