A First Look at District Plans Proposed by the Louisville Metro Council – 89.3 WFPL News Louisville

City officials on Thursday unveiled the new district maps proposed by the Metro Council. They are based on the most recent census data and will decide how the 782,000 residents of Louisville are represented locally.

The electoral district maps reflect an eastward shift in population, with areas of western Louisville having lost residents over the past decade. The new maps also attempt to maintain Louisville’s historically black electoral districts, which is required by federal voting rights law.

By law, the population of each of Louisville’s 26 local legislative districts must remain roughly equal. This means that the districts in parts of Jefferson County with increasing populations had to be redesigned smaller. Districts that lost population were enlarged to include more residents.

At a meeting of the city council’s ad hoc committee on redistribution on Thursday, a council staff member Jeff Noble said the process ensures that the Louisville metropolitan government continues to fairly represent residents. Noble led the effort to redraw the maps.

“This guarantees residents equal access to political representation,” he said.

How neighborhoods can change

Results from the 2020 census showed that District 5, a predominantly black district that includes the neighborhoods of Shawnee, Portland and Russell, lost the most residents. District 19, which encompasses the Middletown region, won the most.

According to the new maps, District 5 would expand further south to encompass parts of the Chickasaw neighborhood. District 19 would shrink, losing a significant portion of Middletown. These neighborhoods would join District 17, which includes the area around Anchorage.

In southeast Louisville, District 20 – Louisville’s largest district by geographic area – would shrink, losing some neighborhoods near the intersection of I-264 and I-64.

Louisville has historically had six districts with predominantly black voters, but half of them have lost black residents in the past 10 years, according to census data. Districts 1-5, mostly concentrated in West Louisville, had to be redesigned to ensure they remain over 51% black. District 6 will remain what is called a crossover district, which is a voting district where black residents are a slight minority but elections have historically been won by their preferred candidate.

District 19 council member Anthony Piagentini, a Republican and vice-chairman of the redistribution committee, noted that minority residents began to disperse throughout the county after segregation ended. And with an increasing number of people identifying themselves as multiple races, Piagentini said it has become more difficult to maintain majority-minority constituencies.

“It shouldn’t continue to be a goal because of history and what happens when you intentionally try to break up racial communities, but I think it’s a very fascinating trend and we have to watch it,” Piagentini said.

Under the Civil Rights Act of 1965, local authorities are not allowed to redraw maps that dilute the voting power of minorities.

The Metropolitan Council has until December 7 to approve the plans. They are now asking for public comment on the proposal. Residents can respond by an online survey, or at the next cutting committee meeting on October 27. Residents must Sign up online speak at this meeting.

The new cards are expected to go into effect before the Metro Council elections next year.

The plans proposed for each municipality are available here.

What is behind the cards?

In order to redraw district boundaries, Metro Council is using updated demographics from the 2020 census. The federal government released the results to state and local governments in August.

Matthew Ruther, population geographer and associate professor at the University of Louisville, broken down the new census figures for the committee. His analysis showed that Louisville Metro’s population grew 5.7%, surpassing the growth of Kentucky as a whole.

The average Metro Council district had 30,114 residents in 2020. But eight districts in western and southern Louisville had far fewer than that. And five districts, mostly concentrated in eastern Louisville and the Okolona area, were well above average.

As Louisville’s black population has grown by more than 14,000, Ruther said there is evidence to suggest these residents have become more dispersed throughout the county over the past decade. In District 4, which includes most of the downtown neighborhoods and NuLu and Shelby Park, the number of black residents has declined from 59% to 46%. Meanwhile, the black population of southwest District 12, which includes the Pleasure Ridge Park neighborhood, has grown from 13% to 21%.

“Although there has been some dispersal of the black population, it remains mainly concentrated in the West End and the south of the city,” Ruther said.

The Hispanic population has increased in all of Louisville’s subway neighborhoods, while the city’s Asian population has increased primarily along the Interstate 64 corridor.

However, Ruther cautioned the Redistribution Committee not to rely too heavily on comparisons of race and ethnicity between the 2020 and 2010 censuses. The federal government has changed questions from last year’s census to allow people to choose more than one racial group, and Hispanics are considered an ethnicity distinct from the race.

Data from the 2020 census also showed that many of Louisville’s largest suburban towns have grown over the past 10 years. Middletown and Jeffersontown saw the largest population increases, with Middletown gaining nearly 2,500 and Jeffersontown gaining around 1,900.

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