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Archive for Tuesday, December 18, 2001

Redistricting proposal groups North Lawrence with eastern cities

December 18, 2001

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North Lawrence would be connected to Eudora, Desoto and the Johnson County suburbs in a new legislative district under a proposed state House redistricting plan.

The proposal, pushed by Republicans, will be considered Thursday during a meeting of a redistricting committee in the Capitol.

State Rep. Troy Findley, a Lawrence Democrat and member of the committee, said he was concerned North Lawrence residents would be inadequately represented in such a district because they would make up such a small portion of it.

Findley said even if the Republican-dominated committee approves the plan, a long process remains before any redistricting map is final.

The measure must be adopted by the full Legislature, signed by Gov. Bill Graves, and could be reviewed by the courts, he said.

Because of population growth, Douglas County, including Lawrence, and Sedgwick and Johnson counties will pick up more legislative seats at the expense of more sparsely populated rural areas.

Currently, three House members represent portions of Lawrence. A fourth House member represents a portion of eastern Douglas County.

But because of population growth, Lawrence and the nearby area will be part of six state House districts.

Under the proposal, Findley and Rep. Barbara Ballard, D-Lawrence, would both maintain districts inside the city limits, though the boundaries would change. For example, the Kansas University dormitories on Daisy Hill, currently in Findley's district, would be in Ballard's under the proposal.

Rep. Tom Sloan, R-Lawrence, would lose much of the southern half of Douglas County currently in his district, while picking up parts of east Lawrence.

Rep. Ralph Tanner, R-Baldwin, would become a member of the Lawrence delegation by leaving Ottawa out of his district and bringing in South Lawrence.

And the district of Rep. Lee Tafanelli, R-Ozawkie, which currently includes Eudora and part of eastern Douglas County, would lose Eudora to the new district that includes North Lawrence, Desoto, Lenexa and parts of Olathe and Shawnee.

State legislators re-draw boundaries of their districts and those of congressmen every 10 years to accommodate population changes. Federal law requires districts be as close to the same population as possible so that everyone's vote has the same weight.

With Republicans firmly in control of the legislative and executive branches of state government, they are in charge of redistricting.

"We have been as fair as possible in drawing these maps," said Rep. Mike O'Neal, R-Hutchinson, the House's head lawmaker on redistricting.

Democrats disagree, noting that Republicans have carved up several districts so that Democratic incumbents must run against one another, or the boundaries are so changed that the Democrat faces a significant gain in Republican voters.

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