Compromises on congressional redistricting

A redistricting plan approved by the state House last week redraws Kentucky's congressional districts in significant ways. However, the version of House Bill 2 passed by the Senate Wednesday looks very similar to existing districts.

A more sensible set of boundaries would combine certain aspects of each plan.

As might be expected, Democrats who control the House crafted a plan favoring their party. Not surprisingly, the Republican majority in the Senate followed the same partisan instincts.

As a result, each plan includes a grotesquely shaped district that could serve as a fine illustration for a definition of the not-so-fine art of political gerrymandering.

In trying to protect Democratic U.S. Rep. Ben Chandler, the House plan takes a compact 6th district, squeezes it in the middle and spreads its wings, so to speak — in the process causing less dramatic distortions in adjoining districts.

On the plus side, the House plan corrects a 20-year-old mistake that produced a 1st District stretching from the Mississippi River all the way to the southern edges of the Bluegrass.

The Senate plan perpetuates the 1st District mistake and arguably makes it worse by adding even more area in the middle of the state to the predominantly far-western district.

To Senate Republicans' credit, their plan maintains a compact 6th District, albeit one that is somewhat less friendly to Chandler.

Neither the Senate nor the House realistically expects the other chamber to back down on redistricting.

The competing plans simply stake out the positions each side will take into conference committee negotiations that ultimately will produce the congressional map Kentucky will have for the next decade.

Those negotiations could begin as early as Thursday.

As it exists now, the 1st District is nonsensical on its face. As proposed by the House, the 6th District would be only slightly less nonsensical. So, we encourage House and Senate leaders on this conference committee to temper partisanship with a healthy dose of common sense that allows them to see the better points about each plan.

If they do, they will correct the 1st District mistake and avoid a similar mistake in the 6th District.

All Kentuckians deserve to live in compact congressional districts designed to pay more tribute to geography and the shared values of a given area's citizens than to gerrymandering.

The same could be said about state legislative districts. But given the not so gentlemanly agreement for each house to rubber stamp the other's actions, the water is too far under the bridge for that to happen this year.