Commonwealth of Kentucky v. Graham (Amicus)

Location: Kentucky
Court Type: Kentucky Supreme Court
Status: Closed
Last Update: November 17, 2023

What's at Stake

State legislatures are responsible for creating state legislative and U.S. congressional districts. In 2019, the U.S. Supreme Court held in Rucho v. Common Cause that federal courts have no authority to review claims that states have sorted voters along partisan lines to favor one political party over others. However, challenges to partisan gerrymandering continue in many state courts, and this case involves one such constitutional challenge in Kentucky.

In the Kentucky 2022 legislative session, House Bill 2 (HB 2) and Senate Bill 3 (SB 3) were passed to redistrict state house and U.S. congressional seats, respectively. The new maps represent an extreme partisan gerrymander in which Democratic voters have been packed into districts—or cracked into separate districts—to maximize the advantage of Republicans and dilute the votes of Democratic voters.

The Kentucky Democratic Party filed a lawsuit against these new bills in Kentucky state court. The trial court concluded that HB 2 and SB 3 were political gerrymanders, and that the legislature had selectively applied its redistricting principles to neutralize the voting power of one political party. However, the court ruled that the new maps did not violate the state constitution, which it believed “does not explicitly forbid the consideration of partisan interests in appointing representation.” The Democratic Party appealed to the Kentucky Supreme Court.

The ACLU of Kentucky, Black Lives Matter Louisville, and the Kentucky Equal Justice Center—with representation from the ACLU of Kentucky and the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project and State Supreme Court Initiative—filed an amicus brief in that court in support of the challengers.

The amicus brief argues that gerrymandered maps violate the Kentucky Constitution’s protections for free speech and association, Kentucky’s guarantee of equal protection, and the state constitution’s prohibition against arbitrary and absolute power. The brief explains why the application of strict scrutiny to review the gerrymandered maps is necessary to adequately protect the constitutional rights at stake.

The court held that partisan gerrymandering claims are justiciable in Kentucky state courts but that the gerrymandering in this case was not sufficiently severe to violate the state constitution.

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