Clarifying Redistricting, Maybe
Sen. Robert Stivers must be tired of people being upset with him about redistricting. He may be getting more calls.
We called his latest bill a "horrible idea" when we read the description of SB 18, his Constitutional Amendment to clarify the state legislative redistricting process:
House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, said Friday that he supports Senate Bill 18, an amendment that would give the legislature permission to split medium-sized counties to balance the population of legislative districts.
Allowing the legislature to split counties that do not contain sufficient population to constitute an entire legislative district IS a horrible idea. We have seen the legislature's quick willingness to divide community populations along lines designed to protect incumbents, placing their political careers above any consideration of community.
The language of SB 18 is unclear, giving seemingly conflicting instructions on the division of counties. It seems to allow the legislature to divide counties at will before setting forth requirements that require the legislature to place a county's whole population in a single district, or the fewest number of whole districts before placing the remainder of the county's population in a separate district.
Here's the relevant language from the amendment:
The General Assembly may divide any county that in its judgment is reasonably necessary to divide to achieve the population equality required by subsection (2) of this section, provided that any divided county shall first be given as many whole districts as it has sufficient population to constitute and that the number of divisions in any divided county be kept to the minimum possible.
If a county's population is less than the population required for a district, then the minimum number of divisions possible is zero. The requirement to keep county populations whole could be stronger language to protect counties from division than currently exists.
We are withholding judgment on this amendment. We believe the current requirement NOT to divide counties is the preferred policy. If this language clarifies that policy, then this is a good amendment. If it allows the legislature to divide any county at will, than it is just the horrible allowance to gerrymander we were afraid of, and this amendment is a KEY VOTE.