Kentucky School Advocate
Less than four months before the November election, a federal judge ruled that Campbell County’s school board divisions were unconstitutional.
In response to a lawsuit filed in U.S District Court in Covington, Judge David Bunning on July 15 ordered Campbell County Schools to redraw the boundaries by Aug. 1 or the court would redraw them on Aug. 15.
The suit, brought by four residents, argued that divisions two and four of the Campbell County board were in violation of the Constitution’s 14th Amendment equal protection clause under the “one person, one vote” rule. The residents said their votes were diluted because their districts contained more residents than the other three divisions.
Under state law, school board divisions are required to be “as equal in population and containing integral voting precincts insofar as is practical.”
In Campbell County’s case, the district’s total population based on the 2020 Census was 49,165.
“Therefore, the average/ideal population per district, which is calculated by dividing the total population by five (the number of districts), is 9,833,” Bunning said in the ruling. District two had 10,721 residents and district four had 11,316 residents, he noted.
At a hearing a day before the ruling, Campbell County Schools argued that state law prevented the district from changing the boundaries because the law prohibits changing the lines less than five years after the previous change. The district last redrew the lines in 2020 after it absorbed Silver Grove Ind. Schools.
The law also allows redistricting if 100 residents of a division petition the Kentucky Board of Education and the board agrees, which did not occur in this case.
Bunning rejected those arguments, ruling that federal law supersedes those state requirements.
After the ruling, the Campbell County board voted to move two precincts, one to division four and one to division two, to balance the divisions. The district four seat, currently held by Peggy Schultz, is on the ballot this November. Schultz is currently facing two challengers in that race.
“These changes, by moving only two precincts, we’re really minimizing the number of voters who are affected by this change,” board member Kimber Fender said, according to LINKnky.
Voters who were moved into division four will now vote this November, while voters who were moved to two will have to wait another two years to vote in a school board election. Campbell County Clerk Jim Luersen said he’s not yet sure how the ruling will impact the November election.
“One of (the seats) on the ballot had one precinct added to it, so, theoretically, there could be someone in that precinct who wants to run,” he said. But he noted he will have to wait to see if the judge orders the filing period re-opened before he can act.
Now that the 2020 U.S. Census has been released, boards should consult with their fiscal courts and county clerk’s offices to determine whether the county’s voting precincts will be redrawn and whether the school board divisions need be changed in order to balance population, said KSBA Director of Advocacy Eric Kennedy.
“If the precinct lines change, boards will want to know that first because school board divisions have to align with precincts,” he said. “We cannot make precincts change for us, we have to change for them. That consideration is in addition to the issue of population equality.”