Gov. Andy Beshear has vetoed Republican-drawn redistricting plans for the Kentucky House of Representatives and the state’s six congressional districts, saying the maps have illegally been drawn to benefit GOP political candidates.
The rejection will likely be temporary — lawmakers can easily override Beshear’s vetoes with a majority vote in each legislative chamber, which are both dominated by Republicans.
In his veto messages, Beshear said both maps were “unconstitutional political gerrymanders” and criticized Republican leaders for cobbling together the plans behind closed doors with no public input.
House Bill 2 would redraw the boundaries for Kentucky’s 100 state House districts, pitting two pairs of Democratic incumbents in Louisville against each other and two pairs of Republicans from rural parts of the state.
Critics said the map unnecessarily divided urban parts of the state and connected them with surrounding districts in rural areas to dilute more progressive voices.
Beshear said the plan “prevents some communities from having their voices heard in Frankfort” in his veto message.
“The redistricting plan appears designed to deprive certain communities of representation,” Beshear wrote, saying it excessively splits Fayette, Boone, Hardin and Campbell counties.
He also said House Republicans split Jefferson and Warren counties for “partisan reasons, contrary to the Kentucky constitution.”
House Speaker David Osborne defended the plan and said lawmakers would override his veto.
“He is wrong on the facts, wrong on the law, and he knows it. This proposal meets all legal considerations. It splits no precincts, divides the fewest number of counties possible, and preserves communities of interest,” Osborne said. “By issuing this veto, the Governor is showing that at best he is poorly informed, and at worst it is blatant political posturing.”
As of Wednesday night, Beshear hadn’t addressed Senate Bill 2, the redistricting plan for the state Senate. If he doesn’t sign or veto the legislation by Thursday night, the bill becomes law.
The political effect of the move is that it makes the 6th Congressional district in central Kentucky safer for Republicans by removing Democratic-heavy Frankfort from its western flank.
The most notable feature of that bill, would extend the 1st Congressional district from the westernmost tip of Kentucky all the way to Frankfort in central Kentucky.
In his veto message, Beshear said the map is obviously not designed to provide fair representation.
“One look at the map reveals what those who drafted it in secret were trying to hide: the redistricting plan is a political gerrymander,” Beshear said.
Though Beshear’s vetoes will likely be overridden by the legislature, the maps could be ripe for a legal challenge once they become law. Republicans successfully challenged Democratic redistricting plans in 2012, arguing they had too many population disparities between districts.