Journal-Times (Grayson, KY)

May 8, 2013

Let citizens draw districts, not politicians


May 8, 2013 —     We say “amen” to our colleagues at the Lexington Herald-Leader who have called for a new method of realigning legislative districts to balance population changes from census to census.

    “Gerrymandering” is the term used most often to describe the redrawing of election boundaries to favor one political interest over another.

    The term first appeared in 1812 when Eldridge Gerry, governor of Massachusetts, concocted an election district that was shaped like a salamander.

    His last name was attached to the last part of the amphibian’s name to form “Gerry-mander”.

    We hope the old governor wasn’t flattered because it wasn’t meant as a compliment.

    Gerrymandering is an all too common means of inflicting a politician’s self-interests on the voters of a district that he or she can shape with neighborhoods friendly to them.

    State legislators elected in 2012 ran in districts that were based on Kentucky’s population count in the year 2000.

    The 2010 census found that the state had grown by 300,000 persons and that most of that growth occurred in urban areas.

    The result was that some legislative districts vary in size as much as 74 percent, according to a federal lawsuit pending in Northern Kentucky.

    Such a situation, of course, is totally contrary to the U. S. constitution’s guarantee of “one person, one vote”.

    And it means a vote counts more in a rural area than it does in the cities. In other words, equal representation is no longer everyone’s right.

    It appears that a special legislative session might be called this year to try again to redraw legislative districts before a panel of federal judges takes on the task.

    Kentucky should join the 12 other states that use a panel of citizens without political alliances to convert population data into fair election boundaries.

    We also need to repeal the ban on splitting counties to achieve reapportionment. Our state’s population has doubled since that prohibition went into effect.

    Until the recent lawsuit, the plan was for the General Assembly to try redistricting again in 2014. The House had a redistricting bill in the 2013 session but it died quietly in the Senate.

    Redistricting plans adopted by the House and Senate in 2012 were quickly thrown out by the state courts because of obvious gerrymandering.

    It is obvious that the current system is broken.

    In our view, it’s time to radically change the game by allowing voters to pick their officials rather than officials picking their voters.