Conventional wisdom is that the population of Letcher County and its three cities has fallen since the 2010 Census.
“I’m sure we lost with the downturn of the coal industry, but as far as the figures I don’t have any numbers,” Judge/Executive Terry Adams said.
On Thursday, just how much it has dropped will be made public.
The U.S. Census Bureau announced last week that it will release local Census numbers at noon tomorrow.
The numbers are important because they are used for everything from realignment of government districts to determining how much money cities, counties and nonprofits will receive from grants. Apportionment – the realignment of district so each representative represents the same number people — is also required by the Constitution.
Under the 14th Amendment, “Representatives shall be apportioned among the several States according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons in each State, excluding Indians not taxed. But when the right to vote at any election for the choice of electors for President and Vice-President of the United States, Representatives in Congress, the Executive and Judicial officers of a State, or the members of the Legislature thereof, is denied to any of the male inhabitants of such State, being twentyone years of age, and citizens of the United States, or in any way abridged, except for participation in rebellion, or other crime, the basis of representation therein shall be reduced in the proportion which the number of such male citizens shall bear to the whole number of male citizens twenty-one years of age in such State.”
There are 435 members in the House of Representatives and that number doesn’t change. As the population grows, each member of Congress represents more people, and every 10 years the total number of citizens is reallocated to those 435 seats. Those state and national figures were released earlier this year showing Kentucky will keep six congressional seats.
Local rules aren’t as clear cut. Any county, for example, can have between three and eight magistrates or justices of the peace, and the same number of constables, as long as their districts touch each other, and are as close as possible to the same population.
Software has now been designed to create districts in minutes, whereas in the past it might take weeks.
In 2010, the Census showed that Letcher County had a population of 24,511, but estimates say the population had dropped to 21,535 by 2019. The real figure could be higher or lower than that, but few people expect the numbers to have increased.
Estimates for 2018 predict that the population of the three cities also fell. Whitesburg’s population was estimated at 1,869, down from 2,139; Jenkins’s 2018 estimate was 1,955, down from 2,203 in 2010; Fleming-Neon’s 2019 estimate was 677, down from 770.
Any of those numbers could go up or down. What they mean for Letcher County is not clear.
County Clerk Winston Meade, who is a member of the county redistricting committee by virtue of his office, had not yet received information on the Census or on the requirements for his office. Judge Adams, who is responsible for appointing members of the committee, also wasn’t sure what the county will have to do.
“I know the Census was late getting in. We were supposed to have already had them,” he said Tuesday .
The state normally requires redistricting to be completed in January, before the deadline closes for candidates to file for the election in January.