Beshear vetoes new state House, congressional maps; GOP plans to override

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear said Thursday he vetoed bills that redrew the state House of Representatives and federal congressional districts because they served as “a clear example of political gerrymandering” and expects them to get challenged in court.

The Democratic governor used his veto pen for the first time this session on Wednesday, rejecting House Bill 3, which created the 100 state House districts, and Senate Bill 2, which established the six congressional districts.

Republicans hold large majorities in the House and Senate and are expected to override Beshear’s vetoes. That could come as early as Thursday afternoon.

But that will likely lead to legal challenges. While the governor said he would not be part of any lawsuit, he added there have been successful lawsuits to block new maps in other states. He also claimed the new districts would lessen minority representation.

In his veto message for the House bill, he said that it “excessively” divided some of the state’s largest counties by population. He also felt it divided Jefferson and Warren counties for “partisan reasons,” which would violate the state constitution.

“I believe that voters should choose their elected representatives, elected representatives should not choose their voters,” Beshear told reporters Thursday.

In vetoing the Senate bill, Beshear pointed out the new first congressional district would span from the western end of the state, continue along the southern border with Tennessee and then shoot north to include Franklin County, home to Frankfort and roughly midway between Louisville and Lexington.

“Under this map, someone driving from Lexington to Louisville would cross five of the state’s congressional districts, but it would take over four hours to get from one side of the First District to the other,” Beshear said in the SB3 veto statement. “Plainly, this map is not designed to provide fair representation to the people of Kentucky and was not necessary because of population changes.”

Legislative leaders rejected Beshear’s claims and said both bills meet the statutory requirements.

“The process of redistricting has been and remains solely the responsibility of the duly elected members of the state legislature,” Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, said in a statement. “The Governor has provided his input, and the next step in the process is an override of his gubernatorial veto by the Kentucky General Assembly.”

Beshear said he was still reviewing the bill resetting the senate’s 38 districts.

House Speaker David Osborne, R-Prospect, objected to Beshear’s characterizations about reducing minority representation. He added that House GOP members took particular care not to divide precincts and sought to divide as few counties as possible.

“He is wrong on the facts, wrong on the law, and he knows it… By issuing this veto, the governor is showing that at best he is poorly informed, and at worst it is blatant political posturing,” the speaker said in a statement.

Unable to persuade Beshear to call a special session late last year to handle redistricting matters, lawmakers made the new maps a priority in the first week of this General Assembly session, which started two weeks ago.

The new maps were needed quickly because the filing deadline for the May primary was Jan. 7. That will be adjusted to accommodate the new district boundaries.

On Wednesday, the House Republican who led the chamber’s redistricting efforts filed a bill that would push back the primary to Aug. 2 and the filing deadline to May 31.

The changes proposed in House Bill 323 by state Rep. Jerry Miller, R-Eastwood, would only apply to the 2022 election cycle. Miller has said  he would not seek re-election.

This article was originally posted on Beshear vetoes new state House, congressional maps; GOP plans to override

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