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Redistricting in Kentucky

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Note: Redistricting takes place every 10 years after completion of the United States Census. The information here pertains to the 2010 redistricting process.

Redistricting in Kentucky
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General information
Partisan control:
May 2013
Total seats
State Senate:
State House:
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Redistricting on PolicypediaState legislative and congressional redistricting after the 2010 CensusState-by-state redistricting procedures
Figure 1: This map shows the Kentucky Congressional Districts after the 2000 census.

This page is about redistricting in Kentucky. Though the state neither lost nor gained a Congressional seat, growth was uneven across Kentucky. Legislative districts in the central region, which saw the highest growth, would need to shed population to meet population targets. Underpopulated districts in both the East and the West would need to pick up population. Overall, districts in central Kentucky were expected become smaller and more compact, while outlying district would grow to gain new population.


The Kentucky General Assembly is responsible for redistricting. Although not required by state statute, each chamber is expected to prepare its own redistricting plan. These plans are then proposed as bill and passed like ordinary legislation. As such, the Governor of Kentucky may veto any redistricting plan. Given that each of the major parties controlled one legislative chamber, some observers feared that lawmakers could find common ground in an 'incumbent protection' plan.[1]


Kentucky received its local redistricting data on March 17, 2011, around the same time the state legislature wound down its session. Factoring in time to prepare supplementary data and to transfer Census information into necessary software formats, the actual work of redrawing legislative boundaries was expected to begin sometime in July 2011 according to legislative sources. A interim committee was appointed to guide the process.

Figure 2: This map shows the Kentucky House Districts after the 2000 census.
Figure 3: This map shows the Kentucky Senate Districts after the 2000 census.

Members of the Interim Joint Committee on State Government in 2011 included:

Following the Joint Committee's work over the summer, the law allowed for two scenarios. Governor Steve Beshear, a Democrat who sought re-election in 2011, could call a special legislative session at the end of 2011 to approve the redistricting plan or, as had been done in the past, the legislature could take up the matter in 2012. The initial deadline to approve a redistricting plan was set for January 31, 2012, though lawmakers could also choose to push that date back.

Census results

Figure 4: This map shows Kentucky's population change from 2000 to 2010, by county.

Between 2000 and 2010, both the eastern and western ends of Kentucky lost population, while the state's central region grew.[2] In all, three Congressional seats would need to give up population to even out the state, with an ideal number of 723,000. In terms of hard numbers, 2000 to 2010 saw Kentucky grow 7.4%, adding approximately 298,000 residents. Specific areas outpaced that rate; for instance, the Lexington area exploded 189.2%, setting the pace for the rest of the state.

Racially, whites lagged behind every other group, with a low 4.6% growth rate. Blacks increased 14%; American Indians 17.5%; Asians 64.5%; and Hispanics a staggering 121.6%.[3]

At the same time that Kentucky faced trimming some seats, the 1st, 3rd, and 5th Districts needed to play catch-up and gain population. Lawmakers could wait until January 2012 to begin work, but that threatened to put candidates for the autumn election at a disadvantage in filing papers. Instead, even though the most detailed precinct level data wouldn't be in legislators' hands until July, committee members already began discussions over the process. One option was a special session after the 2001 off-year elections and before the Assembly convenes the following year.


Special session date uncertain

As of late July 2011, Gov. Steve Beshear (D) remained undecided about whether to call a special session to complete redistricting. A special session would have cost over $60,000 per day.[4]

Leaders debate special session

The leaders of Kentucky’s legislative chambers began discussing the state’s redistricting timeline. However, House and Senate leadership appeared to be at odds over the proposed start date. House Speaker Greg Stumbo (D) argued that a special session should be held that year prior to the start of the 2012 regular session. He contended that starting in January could overshadow other important issues and disrupt the elections process in the event of a delay. Senate Majority Leader Robert Stivers (R) argued that at $63,000 per day, a special session was not worth the cost. He further argued that the last redistricting session went smoothly without a special session or serious delays.[5]

Stumbo floats congressional maps

In November 2011, House Speaker Greg Stumbo (D) outlined a possible redistricting plan for Kentucky’s congressional districts. The plan drew the ire of state Republicans for weakening the GOP base in the 1st and 5th Districts and displacing U.S. Rep. Brett Guthrie (R) in District 2. Stumbo argued that the plan was designed to create more compact districts. Regardless, any map approved by the Kentucky House would require the approval of the Republican-controlled Senate. Republicans controlled four of the state’s six congressional districts.[6]

Governor considers special session

Governor Steve Beshear (D) had yet to decide whether to call a special session or let lawmakers begin redistricting in January. Republicans favored waiting, citing a $60,000/day price tag for a special session. Stumbo, speaking for himself, said he would favor a special session in the unlikely event that lawmakers had a compromise ready.[7]

Thayer offers congressional proposal

On November 29, Kentucky Senate Redistricting Chair Damon Thayer (R) released a redistricting proposal for the state's congressional districts. The plan was largely based on the existing layout, making minor changes to existing districts. The plan contrasted with the proposal by House Speaker Gregory Stumbo (D) which made several districts lean more Democratic. While Thayer said his plan made no attempt to shift the partisan balance of the districts; Republicans already controlled four of the state's six congressional seats. Ultimately, both chambers would have to sign off on a compromise plan.[8]

House moves on redistricting maps

The Kentucky House of Representatives passed redistricting maps for the state House and U.S. House. Approved on Tuesday, January 10, 2012 the U.S. House map would dramatically reshape the state's congressional districts. Most notably, the plan made significant changes to Districts 4, 6, and 2. Overall, the plans seemed to benefit Democratic Reps. John Yarmuth (District 3) and Ben Chandler (District 6), and undercut Republican Rep. Hal Rogers (District 5). Republican Floor Leader Jeff Hoover sharply criticized the plan, saying that political motives drove mapmakers. Republicans held a 4-2 edge in the Kentucky congressional delegation at the time. The plan was approved 54 to 42--more or less along party lines.[9]

  • A copy of the House-approved congressional plan can be found here.

On Thursday, January 12, the Kentucky House also approved new chamber lines, passing a redistricting bill by a 63-34 margin. Republicans decried the proposal and suggested that legal action might be taken against the map if approved. The bill drew seven Republican incumbents into three districts, and another Republican would be paired with entrenched Democratic Floor Leader Rocky Adkins. House Speaker Greg Stumbo (D) said the changes were necessary due to demographic changes. Opponents were also critical of several un-compact, meandering districts in the new plan.[10][11]

Beshear signs legislative plans

On January 20, Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear (D) signed the state's legislative redistricting maps into law. Each chamber drew its own maps, guided by the majority party (Republican in the Senate and Democratic in the House). The Governor criticized Senate Republicans for drawing partisan maps, but did not chasten the House's plan. The votes in both chambers were marked by anger from minority party legislators. The chambers remained at an impasse on congressional maps.[12]

The signature filing deadline for congressional and state legislative candidates was January 31. However, the congressional deadline was moved to February 7 in order to create time for a compromise map.[13]

New legislative maps to be taken up in 2013

Following the state Supreme Court's rejection of the legislative maps in 2012, the Legislature has to pass new maps prior to the 2014 elections. When that will happen, however, is up in the air. President of the Senate Robert Stivers (R) has shown no desire to rush the issue, stating, "I think it would be prudent to really consider not injecting internal politics into the situation. There is no pressing need."

Meanwhile, Speaker of the House Greg Stumbo (D) is looking to get it done as quickly as possible to avoid it being used later on as a political bargaining chip. "I'm not going to be a part of holding redistricting over somebody's head to vote on something else. We're not going to do that," he said.[14]

Although Gov. Steve Beshear (D) advocated legislators postpone working on districts until later in the year, Stumbo asked members of the House to propose new boundaries by February 1, 2013. Stumbo stated, "we must realize this is strictly a legislative responsibility and I believe we should attempt to put together a plan that can pass the House and comply with the latest court decision." Senate leaders, meanwhile, have not changed their position and still intend to delay the task.[15]

Stumbo says US House compromise near

Speaker of the House Greg Stumbo (D) said lawmakers in the Republican Senate and Democratic House were in the process of reaching a compromise on Kentucky's congressional districts. Stumbo said the map closely resembled existing districts. Legislators were able to consider the plans by Tuesday, February 7, 2012[16]

Congressional map passed, signed

On February 10, the Kentucky State Legislature approved a congressional redistricting compromise. The plan passed 29-7 in the Senate and 58-26 in the House. Governor Steve Beshear (D) signed the plan on the same day. These events came just one day after a lawsuit was filed asking the courts to take over the congressional redistricting process.[17]

State legislative maps unpassed

The Kentucky House of Representatives passed its redistricting bill after nearly two hours of debate on March 6, 2013. The plan pits incumbents against each other in six districts, while creating seven open districts. The bill passed 53-46, with the House's 45 Republicans joined by Mitchel Denham, Jr. (D) in voting against the plan. Although the legislation can now be considered by the Senate, President Robert Stivers (R) has stated it will not come up for debate in this year's legislative session. The Senate also has no plans to present its own redistricting plan this year.[18]

2013 lawsuits

In April 2013, local officials and residents in northern Kentucky took the state and a litany of state legislators to court over redistricting. The lawsuit asked the court to impose a deadline of November 4 for redistricting, and offered a plaintiff-drawn map for use should the legislature not approve its own redistricting plan in time. As the legislature is not set to convene again until January 2014, if legislators have to redraw maps by November it would require a special session.[19] In June, five more residents of Kentucky asked a three-judge panel to draw the state's legislative districts in a lawsuit filed by American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky attorney Bill Sharp. These residents claim that the lack of new maps have left them without adequate representation mirrored the previous lawsuit.[20]

With the decision of both lawsuits looming, Governor Steve Beshear (D) called for a special session of the legislature to consider redistricting. The special session began on August 19. The three judges will decide whether or not to stay lawsuits against the current maps to give legislators time to redraw the maps during the special session.[21][22][23]

State legislative maps passed

In August 2013, Kentucky held a week-long legislative session in as a last-ditch attempt to address redistricting. Gov. Steve Beshear signed the redistricting bill into law on Friday after it garnered 35-2 approval by the Senate and 79-18 in the House. Final approval must come from three federal judges tasked with overseeing the process, who stated beforehand they would not hesitate to create their own maps should the legislature fail to reach an agreement. If accepted by the three-judge panel, the new boundaries will take effect following the 2014 election. Critics from Northern Kentucky believe the maps do not proportionally reflect the population growth of their region: though it rose thirteen percent in the 2010 census, the three counties gained no further legislative representation.[24][25]

Status as of March 2014

Over the summer of 2013, during a five-day special session of the Kentucky General Assembly, a final redistricting bill was passed in August 2013. The House voted 79-18 to approve and the Senate had passed it at 35-2. It was signed by Gov. Steve Beshear in August 2013[26]. In November 2013, a federal court affirmed the legality of the districting lines.[27] As of March 10, 2014, no parties have filed litigation against the new redistricting lines.

Legal Issues

Lawsuit filed against leg maps

On January 26, House Republicans filed suit against the Democrats' chamber map. The GOP lawmakers argued that the plan unnecessarily divided counties. The approved plan split four more counties than the Republican alternative. On January 30, Senator Kathy Stein (D) joined the lawsuit, challenging the Senate redistricting plan. She contended that the changes to her district disenfranchised Lexington voters.[28][29]

Judge postpones filing deadline

On January 31, 2012 a state circuit judge hearing the lawsuit against the state's legislative maps extended the filing deadline for candidates from January 31 to February 7. The lawsuit was brought by members of the minority parties in each legislative chamber. The delay was expected to put legislative activity on hold as incumbents waited to size up their fall challengers.[30]

Judges tosses leg maps, appeal planned

On February 7, a Franklin Circuit Court ruled that Kentucky's new legislative districts were unconstitutional, saying that the districts exhibited unacceptable population disparities and divided too many counties--both violations of the Kentucky Constitution. The state planned to appeal the ruling to the Kentucky Supreme Court.[31]

Decision appealed

The state officially appealed a Franklin Circuit Court decision which invalidated Kentucky's new legislative redistricting plan. The appeal was fast-tracked by the Kentucky Supreme Court.[32]

Supreme Court hears appeal

On February 24, 2012, the Kentucky Supreme Court heard arguments in the appeal of a County Circuit judge's ruling that overturned the state's new legislative districts. Since county precinct maps were based on the state maps, counties could be forced to revise their plans if the decision was upheld.[33][34]

  • The Circuit Court ruling can be found here.

Supreme Court overturns maps

On February 24, after hearing oral arguments, the Kentucky Supreme Court overturned the state's legislative districts, upholding an earlier Circuit Court ruling. The Circuit Court held that the districts exhibited unacceptable population disparities and divided too many counties--both violations of the Kentucky Constitution. As a consequence of the High Court's ruling, 2012 elections took place in Kentucky's existing legislative districts. In addition, since the filing deadline already passed, candidates could not change their filing. This forced some candidates whose residences laid outside the old district lines to withdraw. A full opinion by the Supreme Court is still pending and legislators may wait until 2013 to revise the plans.[35][36]

  • The Supreme Court order can be found here.

Legislature to pay attorneys' fees

In August 2012, Judge Shepherd ruled that the Legislative Research Commission would have to pay attorneys fees for House Republicans and Sen. Stein. The LRC, which consists of the majority and minority leaders from both chambers, used money from the legislative budget to oppose the lawsuit.[37]

On November 15, 2012, Shepherd ordered the LRC to pay the full amount billed by plaintiffs, which came to a total of $186,855.51.[38]

Reform legislation

HB 407

Rep. Mike Nemes introduced a bill (HB 407) to create a nonpartisan redistricting panel.[39]

Redistricting amendment

In March 2012, a constitutional amendment was approved by the Kentucky Senate's State and Local Government Committee. The amendment would require state legislators to finish redistricting in the first complete session after census data is published. If the maps are not completed, lawmakers must stay in session without pay until a plan is approved. The amendment would also clarify certain constitutional provisions guiding the process. The measure must be approved by a 3/5 supermajority in each chamber before it can be presented to voters.[40]


Deviation from "Ideal Districts"

2000 Population Deviation[41]
Office Percentage
Congressional Districts 0.00%
State House Districts 10.00%
State Senate Districts 9.53%
Under federal law, districts may vary from an 'Ideal District' by up to 10%, though the lowest number achievable is preferred. 'Ideal Districts' are computed through simple division of the number of seats for any office into the population at the time of the Census.

Congressional Districts in December 2010

Partisan Registration and Representation by Congressional District, 2010
Congressional District[42] Republicans Democrats Other District Total Party Advantage* 111th Congress 112th Congress
1 (Western Kentucky) 152,383 284,080 23,362 459,825 152.05% Democratic
2 (West Central Kentucky) 180,096 278,250 32,279 490,625 54.51% Democratic
3 (Louisville) 157,711 286,459 41,579 485,749 81.64% Democratic
4 (Northern Kentucky) 201,854 258,626 46,415 506,895 28.13% Democratic
5 (Eastern Kentucky) 210,920 236,069 15,133 462,122 11.92% Democratic
6 (Central Kentucky) 171,961 285,329 37,079 494,369 65.35% Democratic
State Totals 1,074,925 1,628,813 195,847 2,899,585 51.53% Democratic 2 D, 4 R 2 D, 4 R
*The partisan registration advantage was computed as the gap between the two major parties in registered voters.


Kentucky 2010 Redistricting Timeline
Date Action
Late March 2011 Census data are delivered and legislature adjourns since die.
July 2011 Special session to draw legislative maps begins.
January 31, 2012 Initial deadline for the legislature to adopt a plan.

Constitutional explanation

The Kentucky Constitution provides authority for redistricting to the General Assembly in Section 33 of the Legislative Department article.

See also

External links


  1. Courier Journal, "Hardball politics likely to guide Kentucky redistricting," March 26, 2011
  2. Lexington Herald Leader, "Census: Three Kentucky congressional districts have too many people," March 19, 2011
  3., "Census Bureau releases Kentucky redistricting data," March 17, 2011
  4. The Republic, "Gov. Steve Beshear hasn't decided whether to call special session for redistricting," July 28, 2011
  5. Courier-Journal, "Kentucky House, Senate leaders at odds on redistricting," October 6, 2011
  6. Courier-Journal, "Brett Guthrie opposes Kentucky congressional district redraw," November 16, 2011
  7. The Republican, "Top Republican in Kentucky House urges governor to reject special session on redistricting," November 16, 2011
  8. Courier-Journal, "Kentucky Republican senator Damon Thayer unveils congressional remap plan," November 29, 2011
  9. WFPL, "State House Approves Congressional Redistricting Map," January 10, 2012
  10. The Republic, "Ky. House Democrats pass contentious legislative redistricting plan despite GOP objections," January 12, 2012
  11. Courier-Journal, "GOP challenges redistricting plan even as it passes House," January 12, 2012
  12. The Richmond Register, "Beshear signs redistricting law despite controversy," January 21, 2012
  13. The Republic, "Kentucky lawmakers look to postpone congressional election filing deadline by 1 week," January 27, 2012
  14., "Ky. lawmakers still wrestling with redistricting," December 30, 2012
  15., "Kentucky House moving forward with legislative redistricting," January 25, 2013
  16. Courier-Journal, "Congressional redistricting plan near, Stumbo says," February 3, 2012
  17. The Republic, "Ky. lawmakers pass congressional redistricting proposal; governor signs into law," February 10, 2012
  18., "Kentucky House passes redistricting plan; final approval unlikely in this session," accessed March 6, 2013
  19., "N.Ky. residents sue for redistricting," April 26, 2013
  20., "Another federal lawsuit filed over redistricting," May 10, 2013
  21. The Lexington Herald-Leader, "Three-judge panel to rule soon on Kentucky legislative redistricting case," June 21, 2013
  22. Lex18, "Beshear Issues Call For Special Session On Redistricting," June 20, 2013
  23. The Associated Press, "Judges to Rule Soon in Redistricting Case," June 21, 2013
  24., "Governor quickly signs redistricting bill into law," August 23, 2013
  25., "New KY district maps leave NKY feeling snubbed," August 23, 2013
  26., "Governor Signs Redistricting Bill," August 23, 2013
  27. WFPL News,' "Federal Court Sides With Plaintiffs in Kentucky Redistricting Case," November 1, 2013
  28., "Lawsuit challenges Kentucky's redistricting plan," January 29, 2012
  29. Real Clear Politics, "Judge to rule by Tuesday on filing deadlines," January 30, 2012
  30. Courier-Journal, "Judge delays filing deadline for Kentucky legislative candidates," February 1, 2012
  31. Courier-Journal, "Legislators to appeal ruling on districts," February 9, 2012
  32., "Supreme Court puts redistricting case on fast track," February 14, 2012
  33., "Supreme Court to hear redistricting oral arguments Friday," February 24, 2012
  34. The Ledger Independent, "State battle could complicate county precinct mapping," accessed February 23, 2012
  35. McCreary, "Supreme Court tosses redistricting," February 29, 2012
  36., "Candidates withdraw from state races due to redistricting," February 28, 2012
  37. Lexington Herald Leader, "Legislature must pay legal fees of challengers who overturned unconstitutional redistricting," August 15, 2012
  38. Courier-Journal, "Judge orders Kentucky Legislative Research Commission to pay nearly $187,000 in fees in redistricting case," November 15, 2012
  39., "Supreme Court puts redistricting case on fast track," February 14, 2012
  40. Courier Journal, "Senate panel approves bill aimed at improving redistricting," March 14, 2012
  41. National Conference of State Legislatures, “Redistricting 2000 Population Deviation Table”," accessed February 1, 2011
  42. Kentucky Secretary of State, Kentucky State Board of Elections, "VOTER REGISTRATION STATISTICS REPORT," December 21, 2010 (dead link)