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Archive for Monday, January 20, 1992

COMMISSION PONDERS REDISTRICTING

January 20, 1992

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The Douglas County Commission today didn't go far with its redistricting efforts, but a decision is expected at next Monday's meeting.

Only one new redistricting plan was introduced at the meeting. Last week, the commission studied four plans aimed at redrawing the county's three districts.

Despite the forwarding of only a single new plan, County Commission Chairman Mark Buhler requested the commission finish its redistricting work next week.

"The longer we talk about it, the more people are going to wonder about the motives for what we're doing, other than the fact that we got to do it," he said.

The commission is trying to balance the population of the three districts following the 1990 census. The census tallied 81,798 county residents. Dividing that number by three, each district ideally would contain 27,266 people.

CURRENTLY, Commissioner Louie McElhaney's 3rd District has the largest population, with 32,562 residents. Buhler's 1st District contains 25,583 people, and Commissioner Mike Amyx's 2nd District has 23,653 people.

McElhaney presented the only redistricting proposal during the meeting, that involving 12 precincts. McElhaney would give four of his Lawrence precincts to Buhler's district, and Buhler would give one precinct to McElhaney. Also, Buhler would give four precincts to Amyx, while Amyx would yield three precincts to Buhler.

McElhaney said he was trying to make the districts more compact. He would retain only two city precincts east of Iowa Street, Amyx's district would be predominantely east of Massachusetts Street and would give Buhler north Lawrence, Grant Township and the Airport precincts.

Buhler opened the discussion saying he saw a benefit "to changing as few precincts as we can." He said it would be difficult to explain many new districts to the public.

AFTER McElhaney made his proposal, Buhler brought up one of his plans from last week that would move only four precincts. In that plan, Buhler would pick up McElhaney's rural Lecompton and North Wakarusa districts, and Amyx would gain a University Place and south Lawrence precinct from McElhaney.

Without endorsing that proposal, Amyx said it would affect the fewest number of voters of all plans, which he considers important. Amyx said he was concerned by moving a lot of precincts to Buhler's district because the people living in those precincts would go six years from 1988 to 1994 before voting for a county commissioner.

Buhler was elected to the commission in 1990, and his seat isn't up for election in 1994. Amyx and McElhaney were both elected in 1988, and their commission seats are up for election this year.

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