Topeka — The once-a-decade political brawl -- known as redistricting -- got under way quietly Thursday with legislators and staff slowly going over some ground rules.
The real battles are years down the road when the Legislature, after the completion of the 2010 census, will re-draw boundaries for congressional districts and their own legislative districts for the 2012 election.
During the last redistricting go-round in 2002, the city of Lawrence was split with the western portion going into the 2nd congressional district and the eastern portion remaining in the 3rd congressional district.
Many saw the split as a partisan move by the Republican controlled Legislature to hurt U.S. Rep. Dennis Moore, a Democrat, in the 3rd congressional district, and increase GOP strength in the 2nd congressional district.
But Moore continued his domination over Republicans in the 3rd. The 2nd, which was then held by U.S. Rep. Jim Ryun, R-Topeka, went Democratic in 2006, but then flipped back to the GOP in 2008.
On Thursday, House Speaker Mike O’Neal, R-Hutchinson, chaired the 2009 Redistricting Advisory Group.
Asked if Lawrence would remain split, O’Neal said, “not necessarily,” although he said it was way too early to tell.
During the meeting, the committee considered congressional redistricting guidelines that said districts should recognize communities of interest, specifically social, cultural, racial and economic communities of interest.
O’Neal said the term communities of interest “is such a broad term.” Senate President Steve Morris, R-Hugoton, said perhaps the Legislature should keep the term as broad as possible.
One thing that had been a concern in recent years was whether because of Kansas’ slow population growth it might lose one of its four U.S. House seats. But committee staff members said based on the latest census estimates, Kansas should retain its House districts.