By Charlotte Underwood / Staff Writer
The Laurel County Fiscal Court voted on Thursday to file a lawsuit of its own or join other counties in lawsuits when the statewide redistricting proposal goes through. House Republican Floor Leader Jeff Hoover, Republican from Jamestown, and several county clerks, released the redistricting plan last Thursday.
Senator Albert Robinson from Senate District 21 attended the fiscal court meeting and recommended legal action, along with Laurel County Clerk Dean Johnson.
The redistricting proposal submitted by House Republicans splits Laurel County into five separate districts. Robinson told magistrates that the House put an “emergency clause on that, so I assume by tomorrow evening, it will be the law of the land.” If it is not signed into law on Friday, then it will be law in 90 days, according to Robinson.
Currently the county is divided into four districts and is represented in the House by Tommy Turner in the 85th district, Marie Rader in the 89th, Jim Stewart in the 86th, and Regina Bunch in the 82nd.
With the new redistricting, part of Laurel County will be pushed into the 90th district, taking the largest part of the London precincts in addition to Bush, Lake, Blackwater and Johnson precincts into Representative Tim Couch’s 90th district.
“The four people that represent this county now are costing us money,” Robinson said, encouraging magistrates to take action.
According to representatives with the Kentucky House Republicans, the reason for the split of the Laurel precincts is due to a loss of population in the Leslie and Harlan county areas.
Robinson said that Laurel County was not the only county that had been split this way.
“We are not the only ones, Hardin County has been split six ways. We have been divided and severed in such a way that Laurel County doesn’t have a voice in the House of Representatives,” Robinson said, recommending once more that the court pursue litigation.
“I think that we deserve a representative,” Robinson said.
A motion was quickly made to allow Laurel County Judge/Executive David Westerfield the authority to file paperwork that would either join other counties in lawsuits or file a lawsuit of its own. The lawsuit will not be filed until the governor signs the redistricting into law.
Laurel County residents are the smallest number in each of the five proposed districts. In the 90th district, only 12,438 residents are represented with Leslie and Harlan counties. The 89th district which is represented by Marie Rader will only have 5,547 residents represented against residents in Jackson, Lee, Breathitt and Owsley counties.
The 86th district, which includes Knox County, has 13,452 Laurel residents represented, while the Whitley County area and the southern Laurel County precincts of the 82nd District, represented by Regina Bunch, has only 9,747 Laurel residents.