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The dispute over Kentucky's GOP-drawn voter maps headed to court this week (Updated)

Ed Reinke/AP
FILE - The American flag flies at full staff in front of the Capitol Rotunda in Frankfort, Ky., Wednesday, July 23, 2008. Kentucky would make the death penalty off-limits for some defendants diagnosed with severe mental illnesses under a bill that won final legislative approval on Friday, March 25, 2022. The Republican-led Senate voted 25-9 to send the measure to Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear, capping a long effort led by death penalty opponents to restrict the use of capital punishment. (AP Photo/Ed Reinke, File)

Kentucky Democrats brought their state political director and a Harvard professor who specializes in redistricting map simulations to the stand, hoping to show that Republicans' maps heavily favor their own party.

The plaintiffs pointed to several counties — including Fayette and Jefferson — where they say the combination of urban and rural voters threatens to water down Democratic influence in Kentucky's few pockets of blue.

UK election law professor Joshua Douglas told WLEX in January the party has a case.

"Yes, the maps are really that bad. They're pretty extreme partisan gerrymanders. The politicians here chose their voters instead of the other way around."
Joshua Douglas, UK election law expert

KDP political director Trey Hieneman said the maps will carve up a competitive district like Richmond and create three "solidly Republican districts."

But GOP leaders have argued the maps are fair and will withstand the legal challenge. House Speaker David Osborne told reporters during the unveiling of the House map late last year that it's meant to reflect shifts in population.

"I think that, by and large, it is a much more representative map of the population of Kentucky," the GOP leader said.

The recent U.S. Census showed residents in the far eastern and western parts of the state converging on urban hubs in Lexington, Louisville, and Cincinnati.

Take the First District. Under the new map, the region runs from the western tip of the state, dips down to the Tennessee border, and curls back up to include central counties reaching all the way up to Frankfort.

Sean Trende, an expert witness called by the Commonwealth and Republican Secretary of State, said the U-shaped district is a result of efforts to preserve the historical makeup of the neighboring Second District.

"If you want to retain the basic shape of District 2 as it's been over the past 40 years, you're going to end up with a tradeoff that you've had over the past 40 years, which is that First District wrapping around."
Sean Trende, political analyst

Defenders have also pointed to previously divided counties that have been made whole in the new maps.

It's an argument WKYT reports is unlikely to be settled until it reaches the state Supreme Court.

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