Monday, November 05, 2001

NAACP proposes redistricting plan

The Associated Press

        FRANKFORT — A push by the NAACP to create more state House districts dominated or strongly influenced by blacks has been endorsed by a white lawmaker whose own re-election prospects might be threatened.

        Rep. Tom Riner's district, already 40 percent black, would become majority black under a plan revealed Saturday by the NAACP's national redistricting specialist, Sam Walters, at the group's state convention.

        “It empowers the black community to put into office whoever they have trust in,” Mr. Riner said of the plan.

        Mr. Riner, D-Louisville, could face tough opposition from a black opponent under such a plan. He said whoever represents such a majority-black district, including himself, “would be more apt to represent their concerns.”

        Mr. Walters showed how the legislature could draw three majority-black House districts in Louisville instead of the current two, and create districts in Christian and Jefferson counties that would be about 40 percent black.

        The 100-member state House now has four African-Americans, though Kentucky's population is 7.4 percent black. The state's voting-age population, that 18 and over, is 6.9 percent black.

        Jefferson County has two black state representatives, Democrats Paul Bather and Reginald Meeks, who represent districts with overwhelming black majorities. It once had three black House members, but after the 1980 census one was placed in a majority-white district with Mr. Riner, who defeated her in a Democratic primary.

        The plan by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People would redraw Mr. Riner's 41st District, Mr. Meeks' 42nd District and Mr. Bather's 43rd District, all in Louisville, to make each district about 61 percent black. All three have lost population and need to expand.

        Mr. Meeks said the NAACP needs to get its plan in front of legislators.

        Similar advice came from House Speaker Pro Tem Larry Clark, who as Jefferson County's top-ranking House member has much influence over redistricting.

        Mr. Clark said that a final plan “is probably three to four weeks away. If the African-American community has a plan, they ought to be sharing it with somebody.”


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