The line that divides Lawrence into two congressional districts could some day be erased under a bi-partisan proposal put forward Wednesday by legislative leaders who said they want to try to remove political brawling in the redistricting process.
The measure would authorize non-partisan legislative staff members to draw congressional, legislative and state board of education districts. The Legislature then would vote up or down on the proposed districts.
Currently, legislators draw the boundary lines once every 10 years. In 2002, Republicans, who control the Legislature, sliced Lawrence, an enclave of Democratic voters, into two U.S. House districts -- the west side was placed in the 2nd district, and the east side was placed in the 3rd district. Before that, most of Lawrence had been in the 3rd district.
But on Wednesday, Republican and Democratic legislative leaders joined to push for what they said would be a less political redistricting system.
“When legislators choose their own constituents, it leads to intense partisan wrangling, determined power struggles and personal animosity that can sour the mood of an entire legislative session,” said Senate Majority Leader Derek Schmidt, R-Independence.
Schmidt was joined by Senate President Steve Morris, R-Hugoton, Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, D-Topeka, and House Minority Leader Paul Davis, D-Lawrence.
Davis described redistricting as an “awful process” and “the most partisan thing we do in this building.”
The proposal by the leaders has been introduced and will have a hearing later this session. If enacted, it would be in place for the 2012 elections. It is modeled after a redistricting process in Iowa.
Under the proposal, legislative staff would have specific criteria to consider when drawing district lines, and one of those would be to keep communities of interest intact. No district could be drawn for the purpose of favoring or disfavoring a political party or incumbent, according to the proposal.