Politics & Government

State election map ruling reiterated

FRANKFORT — A legislative redistricting plan for Kentucky is unconstitutional because it doesn't adequately address population shifts of the past decade, the Kentucky Supreme Court reiterated in a ruling Thursday.

Justices also echoed a February decision that legislative candidates will have to run this year in districts that have been in place for the past 10 years.

The 27-page ruling explains the legal rationale behind the previous ruling in which justices originally declared the redistricting law unconstitutional.

Lexington attorney Scott White, representing Democratic state Sen. Kathy Stein, who was shifted entirely out of her district, said Thursday that the legal battle could have been avoided if lawmakers had done the right thing from the start.

"The legislature's choice to stick their heads in the sand on settled Kentucky law ended up causing the districts to be out of whack for at least another year," White said. "We certainly hope the legislature will quit messing around and do what's right in the next legislative session."

The Supreme Court held that the populations of all of the state House and Senate districts shouldn't deviate more than 5 percent and that the plan should divide as few counties as possible.

The proposed legislative districts had population deviations of up to 10 percent, and the plan split up to 28 counties among legislative districts. Justices found both to be excessive.

Franklin Circuit Judge Phillip Shepherd ruled in February that the new legislative districts were out of balance and must be redrawn to comply with the "one person, one vote" mandate in federal and state law. Within days, the Supreme Court had upheld Shepherd's ruling.

Redistricting occurs every 10 years to account for population changes found in the U.S. Census. The latest count found that the state's overall population went from 4 million to 4.3 million from 2000 to 2010 and that the overall population had shifted from rural to urban areas. That forced lawmakers to redraw legislative maps so each district was of nearly equal size.

The changes produced some oddly shaped legislative districts. One House district stretched from the Tennessee line in McCreary County, zigzagged narrowly through Laurel County, then encompassed all of Jackson County. One Senate district stretched more than 130 miles from Barbourville to Morehead.

Unhappy with the outcome, some lawmakers, including Stein, filed the court challenge.

FRANKFORT — The Kentucky Supreme Court has thrown out evidence seized during a traffic checkpoint in Central Kentucky after finding that police didn't have good reason to conduct the roadblock.

The high court Thursday found that police in Liberty, in Casey County, could have enforced the city's parking sticker ordinance without stopping all traffic to check for the permits.

The ruling stems from a case prosecutors brought against Joseph A. Singleton after seizing a marijuana cigarette, a bag of marijuana and clear plastic bags. Police stopped Singleton at a roadblock in 2009 after receiving complaints that several teachers at a school in town lacked the permits.

Justice Daniel J. Venters wrote that roadblocks can be constitutional but must be related to highway safety, an emergency situation or border patrol.