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Republicans will be in charge of the redistricting process for the first time in Kentucky history

Kentucky Legislature
Posted at 6:05 PM, Jun 15, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-15 19:48:37-04

FRANKFORT, Ky. (LEX 18) — In 2020, Kentuckians were urged to complete the census. Now, that data will be used to redistrict Kentucky.

What is redistricting? It's the redrawing of the boundaries of congressional and legislative districts to account for population shifts since the last census.

In Kentucky, that task is the responsibility of the legislature. And this time - for the first time in state history - Republicans will be in charge of the entire process.

"This will be the third time that we in the Senate - as Republicans - will control the redistricting process. But it'll be the first time that the House Republicans will be redistricting," explained Senate Floor Leader Damon Thayer.

The GOP holds super-majorities in both the Kentucky House and Senate, which gives republicans control over the process. Today, lawmakers began work on it as the Interim Joint State Government Committee listened to a presentation on rules and procedures for redistricting.

Thayer emphasized the goal of the entire process is to ensure every Kentuckian is represented.

"You have to make sure that when I cast a vote, I'm representing the same number of people - plus or minus 5% - as the other 37 senators. And when a House member casts a vote, they're representing the same number of people as the other 99 representatives," explained Thayer. "This is critical to the way our government works because everyone has to have an equal voice."

Based on census estimates, Thayer believes there will be changes to the maps because there have been significant population shifts in Kentucky over the last decade.

"There is less population in Eastern Kentucky and Western Kentucky and the population is growing generally in the golden triangle which is Lexington - Central Kentucky, Louisville and surrounding counties, and Northern Kentucky," explained Thayer. "But we also know there's growth in Bowling Green and in Owensboro."

"That means there will be less representation in the House and the Senate in Eastern and Western Kentucky and more representation between Bowling Green, Owensboro, Louisville, Northern Kentucky, Lexington, and surrounding areas," added Thayer.

The process of redistricting is also behind schedule. Due to COVID-19, the census data is delayed.

The data won't be available until mid-August and Kentucky's filing deadline for candidates looking to run in 2022 is in early January. So, lawmakers are hoping Governor Andy Beshear can help by calling lawmakers in before next year.

"We're going to need a special session during the fourth quarter of this year," said Thayer.

In a statement from the Governor's Office, Deputy Communications Director Sebastian Kitchen said the "Republican majority has not talked to the Governor about redistricting" and has "not asked for a special session."

"The Governor and his team look forward to receiving more information from the Census Bureau later this year and determining the best option for redrawing congressional and legislative districts in the commonwealth."