NewsCovering Kentucky


Are Kentucky's redistricting maps gerrymandered? UK election law expert weighs in.

Posted at 5:11 PM, Jan 21, 2022

FRANKFORT, Ky. (LEX 18) — Once again, Kentucky's redistricting maps will be dealt with in court.

The Kentucky Democratic Party is part of a lawsuit claiming the Kentucky House map and the Kentucky Congressional map violate the state Constitution.

The lawsuit claims the maps involve "extreme partisan gerrymandering," which violates the Kentucky Constitution "by arbitrarily denying the citizens of the Commonwealth the rights to a free and equal election, free expression, and free association."

The suit also challenges the "excessively and unnecessarily splitting counties."

However, GOP leaders - who made the maps - stand by their work. House Speaker David Osborne believes their map will hold up in court.

"I'm very, very confident that the map will withstand any challenge," said Osborne on Thursday.

The arguments can get complicated at points, but the core of the issue is simple: protecting Kentucky's elections.

University of Kentucky law professor and election law expert Joshua Douglas says Kentucky's maps are "pretty extreme partisan gerrymanders."

"The politicians here chose their voters instead of the other way around," said Douglas. "And why it matters is because it skews representation."

"It matters because when the voters prefer a certain candidate or a certain party, and yet those votes translate into kind of supermajorities the other way," added Douglas. "It skews democracy. It skews representation."

How can you tell if a map is unfair?

Douglas says, "the proof is mathematical."

He says tools like the efficiency gap and PlanScore can measure partisan skew. Mathematical formulas are used to simulate how a certain map would perform and how the political parties would do versus hypothetically drawn maps.

According to Douglas, the efficiency gap shows that Kentucky's House map is "very skewed."

"It's off the charts when looking at this measure called the efficiency gap," said Douglas. "It over-represents Republican voices."

Douglas explains that the efficiency gap shows that Republicans "will win a handful more seats than they would under almost any other map" that was created without a partisan focus.

He adds that the look of the Congressional map is also very revealing. The first district stretches approximately 370 miles.

Douglas says the appearance of the district is comparable to the original gerrymander from the 1800s.

"If you look at the Kentucky Congressional district - the first district - and turn it on its side, it looks almost exactly like that salamander from that initial political cartoon," said Douglas.

According to Douglas, gerrymandering is obvious.

"Today's gerrymandering is not your father's or your grandfather's gerrymandering. It's much more sophisticated. It's much more clear. So, there's no question that it is occurring, and the numbers bear that out," said Douglas. "The real question will be: will the Kentucky Supreme Court do, what I think, legally, it should do, which is to say the Kentucky Constitution ensures some type of fairness in elections, and this map produces unfairness."