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Judge upholds GOP-crafted redistricting maps in Kentucky

FRANKFORT, Kentucky (AP) — Kentucky Democrats on Thursday misplaced a primary spherical in their authorized battle difficult new Republican boundaries for the states’ legislative and congressional districts.

Franklin County District Judge Thomas Wingate dominated that the maps of Congress and the House of Representatives created by the GOP-dominated legislature earlier this 12 months didn’t violate the state structure.

Wingate’s long-awaited ruling got here two days after Republicans elevated their legislative supermajorities in the midterm elections. Several members of the Democratic State House misplaced their reelection bids Tuesday after extra Republican-friendly territory was pinned to their districts.

In his opinion, Wingate wrote “there is no doubt” that the brand new borders had been “partisan Gerrymanders”. But he added that the Kentucky Constitution “does not specifically prohibit considering partisan interests in allocating representation.”

“The Court respects the strong separation of powers of the Kentucky Constitution, and given the lack of manifest unconstitutionality of HB 2 and SB 3, the Court will not overstep the explicit role of the judiciary in determining the constitutionality of any system of division by dealing with legislative motives,” Wingate wrote.

House Bill 2 established maps for State House Districts, while Senate Bill 3 did so for the six congressional districts. Lawmakers passed both after overcoming the veto of Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear.

The new maps were challenged in a lawsuit brought by the Kentucky Democratic Party along with several people including Democratic MP Derrick Graham. Supporters of the bills have expressed confidence that the new limits would stand up to legal challenge.

The state’s Democratic Party did not immediately say whether it would appeal the verdict.

Republican Attorney General Daniel Cameron commended the ruling, saying, “We are happy that the courtroom acknowledged the constitutionality of those legal guidelines and the authority of Kentucky’s elected representatives in the General Assembly to create redistricting plans.”

Kentucky House Speaker David Osborne, also a Republican, said the ruling confirmed that the redistribution plans met “all authorized and constitutional necessities.”

Beshear, who is not a party to the lawsuit, said the Democrat-held state house seats flipped to the GOP came in districts that were “considerably and deliberately gerrymandered.”

“And I believe if these districts had been run below the previous map, these individuals would have received,” the governor said during his weekly news briefing.

The lawsuit alleges that the mapping, which occurs once a decade, reflects “excessive partisan manipulation” that violates the state’s constitution. It is alleged that the State House map divided some of Kentucky’s most populous counties into multiple districts in order to “dilute” the influence of Democratic voters. The goal, it said, was to cement the GOP house supermajority and quell dissent.

Wingate said Thursday the court’s role is to determine “not whether or not partisan manipulation is morally incorrect, however whether or not the Kentucky Constitution prohibits partisan manipulation.”

The decide concluded that the structure “doesn’t expressly prohibit partisan gerrymandering in the redistribution of districts and doesn’t oblige the General Assembly to attenuate the variety of additional divisions of the required divided districts.”

The changing borders are due to population changes over the past decade. Eastern and western Kentucky generally lost population, while the central and northern portions gained more population.

Criticism of the new congressional maps was primarily aimed at adding Franklin County to the oddly shaped 1st congressional district, which includes Democratic-leaning Frankfort in central Kentucky. The district, a GOP stronghold, is predominantly in western Kentucky.

Wingate on Thursday acknowledged that the 1st Ward’s boundaries were “uncommon and never compact.” He did, however, cite a previous ruling that “refused that the aesthetics of a partitioning scheme have any bearing on its constitutionality.” Franklin County’s move out of the GOP-held 6th District will likely make it harder for Democratic candidates in a former swing district.

On Tuesday, nevertheless, Democrats retained a Kentucky congressional seat in the Louisville-area third district that was saved basically intact by Republican lawmakers.

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