Kentucky justices hear arguments over Congressional redistricting plan

Published 1:30 pm Wednesday, September 20, 2023

The Kentucky Supreme Court heard oral arguments Tuesday on whether the Kentucky State House and Congressional redistricting plans enacted by the Republican super majority in the General Assembly pass constitutional muster.

The case, styled Derrick Graham, et al., vs. Secretary of State Michael Adams, et al., is a Democrat vs. Republican case. Graham is the House Democratic Floor Leader, while Adams is named because, as Secretary of State, he is Kentucky’s chief election officer.

The main question for the justices to decide is whether anything in Kentucky’s Constitution prohibits partisan gerrymandering, which has been rightly described by the U.S. Supreme Court as “incompatible with democratic principles.”

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While saying he would not predict the outcome of the case based on questions posed by the justices, attorney Michael Abate, representing the plaintiffs, noted, “The justices clearly understood the issues.  They were very engaged. Yes, there are always questions about standing, but parties and voters have been held for 100 years to have standing to bring this type of case.”

Abate said a Franklin Circuit Court judge found the maps were gerrymandered, based on evidence in the record, “So the Supreme Court has to decide if there is anything in our Constitution that prohibits the majority party from gerrymandering the maps to favor themselves. We think multiple parts of the Constitution prohibit that.”

Adams disagreed. “Our position is the Constitution doesn’t speak to this issue at all.  If it did, why did the Democrats gerrymander their maps for 100 years.  This is a matter that the Constitution left up to the legislature and they can use their own standards as long as they comply with the federal Voting Rights Act, etc.”

When asked by Kentucky Today what happens if the justices rule against the redistricting plan, Adams said he didn’t believe the justices would develop their own map. “I think they would handle it the same way they did the education system in 1989. The Court said we don’t have the power to write a state budget and design how we find education, but we’ll tell you to go do it. I think, at most, the Court would say to the legislature start again.”

Abate also said that would be the likely course going forward, if the high court threw out the redistricting plan.

The justices did not indicate a timetable for their ruling.