Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Columns

June 21, 2013

RONNIE ELLIS: Time to let a commission draw legislative maps

FRANKFORT — It’s time to demand some sort of independent, bipartisan commission be given the job of drawing legislative maps every 10 years.

It’s time for the public – voters, taxpayers, the media – to reject the cowardly, selfish excuses of politicians in the General Assembly who oppose allowing someone to draw sensible legislative maps on behalf of voters rather than to protect incumbents.

Thursday, Gov. Steve Beshear announced he’s calling lawmakers back to Frankfort on Aug. 19 to re-draw state Senate, House and judicial districts, a job they’ve twice failed to do, at least legally. It’s a waste of time and money and whatever Gerrymandered plans the Democratic House and Republican Senate pass still won’t serve the public interest or democracy as much as they’ll serve the interests of the authors.

The authors, frankly, won’t give a damn about you, the voter. It’s gotten so bad in the House that Democratic leaders are cannibalizing their Democratic colleagues’ districts for their own self-protection at the risk of their majority.

In 2012, the Democratic controlled House passed a plan – accepted by the Republican controlled Senate – which lumped a dozen Republicans together in the same districts. One Republican district included two, non-contiguous counties, connected by a narrow strip of highway running the length of a third county. Republican Senators acted just as badly. They managed to draw a map which made it impossible for Democratic Sen. Kathy Stein of Lexington to run for re-election when her term ended, effectively disenfranchising voters of an entire Senate district.

At least it didn’t take the courts long to throw it out. So what did the House do in 2013? It drew a map which connects Ashland to Lawrence County by traveling 20 miles down the width of U.S. 23, wrecked fellow Democrat Mike Denham’s district and again lumped a bunch of Republicans together. The Senate didn’t act – it wasn’t out of altruism – so now we’ll have a special session.

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