Commonwealth Journal

June 5, 2013

Redistricting technicality could see candidates living outside where they file

Quirk in state law affects House race

by Bill Mardis
Commonwealth Journal

Somerset —

Pulaski County Clerk Ralph Troxtell says unless redistricting is completed before November 6 there is a possibility candidates for the Kentucky House of Repre-sentatives could end up living outside the district in which they file.
This coming November 6 is the first day candidates in the 2014 election cycle can file for office. Realignment of House and Senate Districts, required by federal law following the 2010 federal census, has not been done. There is no state senatorial election in Pulaski County next year, but all House members must seek new two-year terms.
Here is what could happen: Suppose a candidate for the House of Representatives files shortly after November 6 and the General Assembly waits until its 2014 regular session, beginning in January, to realign legislative districts?  If realignment moves the district boundary and leaves the filed candidate’s residence outside the district, he or she would not be eligible to run in that district. Traditionally, strong candidates, particularly incumbents, like to get their names in the pot early, a strategy to discourage other candidates from getting in the race.
It has happened before. Initial redistricting plans of the House and Senate were declared unconstitutional by the Kentucky Supreme Court. A judge directed existing districts be used in the last election cycle. Several candidates who had filed in invalid areas were left out in the cold.
Brian Wilkerson, communications director for House Speaker Greg Stumbo, said odds are good that Gov. Steve Beshear will call a special session of the General Assembly to complete redistricting before November 6.
Pulaski County currently is split into five House districts. Under a district realignment plan prepared by the House of Representatives, Pulaski County would have only four House districts. Democrat Terry Mill’s 24th District would no longer extend into northern Pulaski County, leaving Pulaski County with four House Districts.
Wilkerson said the previously published House redistricting plan could be tweaked a little in its final form. The realignment is based on bodies, not registered voters, and possible inclusion of the state’s estimated 8,000 prison population could slightly change the House plan.
If Beshear does call a special session, and if the House and Senate OK the realigned and proposed House legislative districts, the four House districts in Pulaski County would be as follows:
52nd District, represented by Ken Upchurch, Monticello, who won a special election to fill a vacancy created when Sara Beth Gregory was elected to the Senate.
53rd District, represented by David Meade of Stanford. Meade, who succeeded Danny Ford, currently represents what is now designated the 80th District.
83rd District, represented by Jeff Hoover of Jamestown.
85th District, represented by Tommy Turner of Pulaski County.
Wilkerson said there is a “gentlemen’s agreement” that the House will approve the Senate’s redistricting plan and the Senate will approve the House’s redistricting plan. Some House Republicans don’t like the House’s already prepared plan because it would cause several Republican House members to run against each other.
Troxtell said the legislative plan prepared by the House would eliminate a few pocket precincts in Pulaski County. Several small precincts, called pockets, are necessary because a precinct boundary cannot cross a Senate or House district boundary. 
“We had one precinct in the last (special) election where not a single vote was cast all day,” Troxtell recalled.
Pressure to complete redistricting is being applied by two lawsuits –– one by the American Civil Liberties Union asking for a three-judge panel to redraw the districts, and another by a group of northern Kentucky residents in an attempt to force the Legislature to act.
Failure to redistrict before filing begins for 2014 elections would not have a major effect on candidates for local offices. Redistricting could change some voting locations and change or add precincts, Troxtell said.