The McCreary County Record

Local News

February 29, 2012

Supreme Court tosses redistricting

Legislators to run in old districts

FRANKFORT —  After weeks of uncertainty, McCreary County finds itself back in familiar territory.

    On Friday afternoon, the Kentucky Supreme Court ruled that newly drawn legislative are “facially unconstitutional” and that lawmakers will have to operate under the old districts until more balanced boundaries are drawn.

    Justices heard oral arguments that morning in the redistricting case which was filed only a month ago.

    Franklin County Circuit Judge Phillip Shepherd ruled earlier this month that the new districts must be redrawn to comply with the “one person, one vote” mandate in federal and state law. Challenges were quickly taken to the Kentucky Court of Appeals, which sent the case on to the Supreme Court.

    In upholding Shepherd’s ruling, Chief Justice John D. Minton wrote an opinion for the full court excepting Justice Will T. Scott — who recused himself because he is seeking re-election this year in a judicial district that was redrawn under the legislation.

    Justices also upheld the February 10 filing deadline for legislative candidates, prompting Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes to announce that she would certify legislative candidates on Monday so that county clerks could begin preparing May Primary ballots.

    That makes for an interesting situation in McCreary County, which legislators moved to new state Senate and House districts.

    With the old boundaries restored, the Senate district is of little consequence as our current senator, Senate President David Williams (R-16) is not up for re-election this year.

    However, McCreary County had been moved from Sara Beth Gregory’s 52nd House District to Marie Rader’s 89th District. The new 89th was of a particularly odd shape — connecting McCreary to Jackson County by way of a narrow zigzag through Laurel County.

    Prior to the redistricting law being overturned, two local businessmen had filed to run for the 89th House seat. At press time Democrat Teddy Coffey was still listed as a candidate but Republican Greg Burdine withdrew yesterday.

    Kentucky Secretary of State spokesperson Lynn Zellen told the Record that state law does not allow candidates to change districts once the filing deadline has passed.

    Burdine was not disappointed by the fact that he could not run in the old district.

    “I had told Sara Beth Gregory I would not run against her,” Burdine said. “I feel she has represented us well and she is right next door [in Wayne County]. My primary goal in running was that I did not feel McCreary County would be fairly represented by someone who was 100 miles away.”

    Burdine told The Record that, depending on how the next redistricting plan is drawn, he might consider a future run for office.

    Which leaves McCreary voters two choices in the Republican primary for the 52nd District: incumbent Representative Gregory and challenger David B. Gover, also of Monticello.

    Senate President Williams said in a statement Friday that he's ready to work on new legislative districts.

    "The Supreme Court has the ultimate authority to determine the constitutionality of any statute and I accept their decision," he said. "We stand prepared to run in the old districts or draw new legislative lines, if the House is so inclined, in conformity with the Supreme Court ruling."

    While it’s possible legislators could renew the debate over redistricting during this General Assembly, Gregory indicated the issue would more likely be taken up during a special session or next year’s session.

    Meanwhile, some — like Jim Waters, head of the conservative Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions in Bowling Green — are pointing to the divisive redistricting process as reason to enlist an independent commission to handle the chore.

    Redistricting occurs every 10 years to account for population changes reported in the U.S. Census. The latest count found that the state's overall population grew from 4 million to 4.3 million between 2000 and 2010, requiring new legislative and congressional district boundaries which must be nearly equal in size.

    The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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