In January, 2022, the Kentucky General Assembly will convene.
Ideally, the legislative and Congressional redistricting process would be complete by then. That is looking more and more unlikely.
Republican leaders, including Senate majority leader Damon Thayer, have expressed hope a special session would be held prior to the 2022 redrawn regular session to approve the redistricting map. There was optimism the special session would be held before Thanksgiving, but that does not appear likely.
Redistricting is the process by which congressional and state legislative district boundaries are drawn. With the exception of U.S. senators, which represent the state at large, Kentucky’s six U.S. representatives and 130 state legislators — 100 House representatives and 38 senators — are elected from political divisions known as districts.
District lines are redrawn each decade using data collected during the U.S. Census. Districts should have nearly equal populations and must not discriminate on the basis of race or ethnicity, according to federal government guidelines. The Kentucky Constitution requires state legislative districts “be contiguous … and preserve whole counties where possible.”
In Kentucky, both the congressional and state legislative district boundaries are drawn by the state legislature. The governor can veto district maps, but the responsibility rests with the legislators.
The pandemic delayed the release of the U.S. Census data, placing the legislature in a severe time crunch. Redistricting work has been under way, but as anyone can imagine, the work is difficult, tedious and mathematically challenging. You will hear talk of gerrymandering, and almost always the party in power — in Kentucky’s case, the GOP — will work to protect existing party legislators but that is not always as easy as it may sound.
These maps will determine who represents a community for the next 10 years. They are a vital part of our political process, and while it is only natural to want this part of the process finalized before the new year, it is more important that the process is transparent and completed in as fair a manner as possible. The public should have ample time to see the redrawn maps.
This is a result of an event no one could foresee a few years ago. It is no one’s fault, but we urge the legislature to be diligent and avoid the urge to rush through such an important process. It is more important that these maps are right, than on time.