Archive for Saturday, October 13, 2001

County readies for redistricting

October 13, 2001

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Douglas County commissioners say they are optimistic the once-a-decade redrawing of their three district boundaries will not become a partisan squabble.

At study session Monday morning, they will tackle the task of equalizing population in each of the commission's districts. Census numbers received late last month showed adjustments needed in all three districts.

Jere McElhaney's 3rd District, which includes parts of southwest Lawrence and all of western Douglas County, must shed the most population. Bob Johnson's 2nd District, largely made up of North Lawrence, eastern Lawrence, eastern Douglas County, Baldwin and Eudora, must add the most population.

Unlike the blatantly partisan reapportionment of state and congressional districts, county commissioners said they do not expect many political games.

"Topeka is different than Douglas County," said McElhaney, one of two Republicans on the commission. "I'm not expecting the process to be overly political. I think it will be a process where we'll be as straightforward and as fair as possible."

Charles Jones, the commission's lone Democrat, said he isn't worried about becoming a political victim.

"I don't think it is going to be awfully political because we have all had fairly close races," Jones said. "I think that means there won't be much room to shift around because any shift you make probably has as much potential to hurt you as it does to help you."

Based on census numbers, commissioners will need to create districts of roughly 33,320 people each to make them equal.

The 3rd District is about 4,200 residents above that total. The 2nd District is roughly 2,400 residents below the mark. Jones' 1st District, which is primarily composed of the city's core, is about 1,800 residents short.

Monday, a staff member from the Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Department will bring a computer program that will allow commissioners to move boundary lines on a map and see the corresponding population changes.

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