By Beth Musgrave and Jack Brammer
FRANKFORT — House Democrats plan to appeal a judge’s ruling that declared Kentucky’s newly-drawn General Assembly districts unconstitutional.
After House Democrats met behind closed doors Wednesday evening, House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, emerged to say the group decided to take the issue to the Kentucky Supreme Court.
Franklin Circuit Judge Phillip Shepherd ruled earlier this week that the district boundaries lawmakers approved this year in House Bill 1 were unconstitutional because too many counties were needlessly split into different districts and the population of some districts varied too much.
The judge ordered election officials to use previous district lines in this year’s state legislative elections and extended the filing deadline for legislative candidates to 4 p.m. Friday.
“We intend to move forward on an appellate basis in some form or fashion even if the Senate chooses not to,” Stumbo said Wednesday.
If the Senate does not agree to pursue an appeal, then the House Democrats may file the lawsuit, he said.
“We believe there needs to be some clarification on this issue from the highest court in Kentucky,” Stumbo said.
House Democrats will ask the Supreme Court to uphold the constitutionality of the new legislative district lines and lift the injunction put in place by Shepherd’s ruling, Stumbo said.
If the state Supreme Court does not lift the injunction, “we’ve told our members … to prepare to run in their old districts,” Stumbo said.
Senate Majority Leader Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, said the Senate has made no decision on whether to appeal.
Many legislators on Wednesday were confused about what district they can seek to represent. Some had already filed to run in new districts created under HB 1, but had to withdraw from the new districts on and file in their previous legislative districts.
Meanwhile, Stumbo said the House has no plans to redraw the boundaries of Kentucky’s six congressional districts.
Tuesday was the filing deadline for congressional candidates, and they filed in districts that have been in existence for the last 10 years.
“I think that ship’s’ sailed,” Stumbo said. “That bell has rung. I think the secretary of state will have to certify those candidates.”
Stivers said Stumbo has not told Senate leadership that negotiations about congressional redistricting have ended.
“We’re probably going to try to have a discussion with the House,” Stivers said.