Redistricting Adds Chaos Into Already Jam-Packed Election Year

The legislative district boundaries have shifted in plans that likely await the Governor’s veto pen and subsequent General Assembly override, but for more than candidates and incumbents, this process will add a healthy dose of chaos to an already chaotic election season.

If the districts move forward this year the shifts will mean additional work for the State Board of Elections, which is preparing for May primary races in the current legislative districts. However, new maps mean new precincts, disappearing voting locations, and lots of confused voters who will need to be notified of where to vote and who is on their ballot. There will also be clarifications needed for candidates now running in new districts, and those who have bundled campaign cash for districts they no longer live in or are not up for election this year.

For the campaign cash side of things Rep. Kevin Bratcher, R-Louisville, is expected to propose a bill Wednesday clarifying that candidates now running in a district other than the one they raised money for can keep that campaign cash and not have to return it to donors or donate it to their caucus committee. There are currently conflicting opinions in statute dictating what candidates are supposed to do with their campaign cash.

Bratcher told Kentucky Fried Politics the bill would deal with legislative, judicial, and local districts and put into statute that candidates can keep their donations even if the district the donations were for shifted during the redistricting process.

“It’s not fair. It’s just not right, change the number and lose your donations,” Bratcher said, adding that House leadership is going to fast track the bill that would go into effect right away if passed and signed by the governor.

If that process does not work, candidates could, in theory, donate it to a campaign caucus committee that then returns those funds to the candidates in their new districts. Of course, on paper, some of the districts were drawn in an effort to block certain already filed candidates – and in more than one case that was done by Republicans to Republicans.

During the last redistricting process in 2012, the Court slowed the process down halting the maps which gave the State Board of Elections and other entities related to elections in Kentucky time to prepare. In 2013, then-Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, D-Kentucky, used funds from her office to assist the State Board with postage to notify voters of their voting locations.

Kentucky Secretary of State Mike Adams, R-Kentucky, referred questions on preparedness to the State Board of Elections which did not immediately respond to a request for comment on their preparedness.

This year, the legality and constitutionality of the new maps could also be contested, potentially delaying the maps from taking effect. Marc Elias a Washington D.C.-based attorney recently listed Kentucky on a shortlist of states for litigation related to redistricting.