I awoke last night heavy with anger and grief over a redistricting plan that costs Lexington its beloved senator, Kathy Stein.
The Senate redistricting plan would effectively disenfranchise much of Lexington until elections for even-numbered districts in 2014. A large part of Lexington would become part of the 4th District, whose seat is currently held by Sen. Dorsey Ridley (D-Henderson).
While I am certain that Sen. Ridley would do his utmost to represent our views, it is a perversion of democracy to suggest that the people of Lexington not be allowed to vote on and select their own state senator.
That right to vote is perhaps the most fundamental American right, a right that the women and men in U.S. military uniforms are fighting to protect every day.
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Stein (D-Lexington) is accountable to the people of Lexington, and only the people of Lexington, not to the Senate leadership or even the General Assembly. She is our senator, and it is our duty to judge her accomplishments and talents against those of her electoral competitors.
The Senate proposal imposes the will of a tiny minority over that of thousands of Lexington voters.
I received an impassioned e-mail from Stephen Fritz, whose grandfather, George Fritz, served the House, first as a doorman and later as sergeant-at-arms. Stephen Fritz wrote, and I agree, that the Senate proposal violates central principles of the Kentucky and Federal constitutions.
In perhaps its most perverse aspect, the legislation posits that the technical definition of a district (by its assigned number) should trump the obvious practical definition of a district as the people who comprise it.
Put another way, Senate leadership could easily have assigned any Senate number to the district they drew for central Lexington. That they chose to remove our elected senator without our consent, is deplorable enough. That they will not even allow us to vote on her replacement for two years is unconscionable and possibly unconstitutional. That they appoint someone who doesn't even reside in the area to represent us is a display of arrogance and bullying.
This plan will raise numerous constitutional issues, costing thousands of dollars in litigation. And as we heard from our good governor two nights ago, that's money we don't have to spare.
I understand that in years past, the House has approved the Senate's proposed boundaries, and vice versa.
I also understand that we recently passed a House redistricting bill that has obvious partisan leanings, in tune with bills passed in previous bouts of redistricting. What I now fully understand is that when we choose to move in such raw, partisan ways we cause lasting damage to ourselves and our ability to govern with integrity and foresight.
When we move with a disregard for the wishes of thousands of voters, we risk further demoralizing the very people we represent.
Even under the most partisan of normal redistricting, the people ultimately retain the right of final decision about whom they wish to represent them. This proposal uses an underhanded, legal technicality to remove our right to vote.
What can the House, and I as a Lexington representative, do? We can play along with these shameful tactics and disenfranchise our fellow Lexingtonians for the next two years. Or we can refuse to play that game and put the people of the commonwealth first.
I chose to vote "no" on House Bill 1. And to further protest this method of redistricting ourselves, I changed my "yes" vote from two days ago for the House redistricting plan to "no."
I wanted to ensure Stephen Fritz, echoing his late grandfather, will be able to say that our commonwealth continues to be served by good men and women who prove worthy of this high honor to serve in the House of Representatives by defending every Kentuckian's fundamental right to vote.