Topeka A unique provision in the Kansas Constitution puts Lawrence, and Manhattan for that matter, at a disadvantage in the process of redrawing boundaries for legislative districts.
Census Readjustment ( .PDF )
The reason? Lawrence and Manhattan are home to large regents schools -- Kansas University and Kansas State University, respectively.
The Kansas Constitution and state law require that when the Legislature re-draws state district boundaries, it exclude non-resident college students and non-resident military personnel. It also must include resident college students and resident military personnel in the district of their permanent residence.
So while Lawrence has a population of 87,643 people -- as counted by the 2010 U.S. Census -- it has a population of 75,731, according to the state-required adjustment that was conducted by the Kansas Secretary of State's office.
That means there are 11,912 people living in Lawrence, who for district mapping purposes are considered living somewhere else even though they may be voting in Lawrence. Where students declare their permanent residence is unrelated to where they can register to vote.
And that means to create a legislative district in Lawrence, more people must be brought in to reach the optimum size of 22,716 for a House district and 70,986 for a Senate district. Additionally, that means, folks like state Sen. Marci Francisco and state Reps. Paul Davis and Barbara Ballard, all Lawrence Democrats, actually have more people living in their districts than their colleagues.
“It's significant,” Davis said Wednesday. “It dilutes Lawrence's representation in the Legislature.”
Davis said Kansas is the only state that does this re-count.
“It needs to be changed,” Davis said. “Unfortunately, it will require a constitutional amendment.”
That would require approval from two-thirds of the Legislature and approval by Kansas voters.
The issue came up during the last round of redistricting, but then re-count was not nearly as drastic as the new one. Lawrence lost 5 percent in the re-count in 2001 as compared with 13.6 percent under the new one.
Davis said some complained 10 years ago that KU did not do enough to get students to declare where they wanted to be counted. This time, he said, KU was aggressive about it — and more of them said they wanted to be counted in their hometowns.
New boundaries for congressional, legislative and State Board of Education districts are currently being worked on by legislators and will be finalized during the 2012 legislative session before undergoing judicial scrutiny.
The Special Committee on Redistricting has been meeting this week in various towns and is scheduled to meet in Lawrence and Overland Park on Sept. 2.