Archive for Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Kansas lawmakers begin work on redistricting

June 1, 2011, 9:04 a.m. Updated June 1, 2011, 10:38 a.m.


— Kansas legislators began discussions on redrawing lines for legislative and congressional districts on Wednesday, with the House speaker taking the unusual step of putting himself in charge of the politically charged task in his chamber.

The House's committee on redistricting held its first meeting, an orientation session. The Senate committee was expected to meet later in the day. The two teams expect to have joint meetings throughout the summer and fall for public hearings in communities across the state.

The state redraws political boundaries once every 10 years following the federal census. Lawmakers won't actually redraw political boundaries until their 2012 session, which convenes in January. In addition to House, Senate and congressional districts, they will revise districts for the State Board of Education.

House Speaker Mike O'Neal, a Hutchinson Republican, named himself the chairman of his chamber's 17-member committee — reflecting both the task's political importance and his interest in it. O'Neal, an attorney, was chairman of the House's redistricting committee in 2002 under another speaker and was heavily involved in redrawing lines in 1992.

"There are really only a couple of us who've had experience doing this," O'Neal said. "Given that I was going to have a substantial interest in it and probably would be working on it anyway, I just decided that we'd run it out of our office."

House Minority Leader Paul Davis, a Lawrence Democrat, also put himself on the committee. Its partisan split — 17 Republicans and six Democrats — reflects the House's overall GOP majority, 92-33.

Similarly, the Senate, where Republicans have a 32-8 majority, has a redistricting committee with 10 Republicans and three Democrats.

Republican Gov. Sam Brownback took office in January, putting the GOP in a strong position entering the redistricting debate. Democrats also faced a GOP-dominated Legislature and Republican Gov. Bill Graves in 2002, but the Republican majorities were smaller.

"I recognize that this is, inherently, a partisan process and go into that with expectations that Democrats are probably not going to get their way, but we'll try to work together with them as best we can," Davis said.

But population shifts are likely to be equally as important in drawing the lines, with many rural areas losing residents while urban and suburban areas gain them. Most legislators expect Johnson County, the state's most populous, to pick up seats in the Legislature.


wmathews 7 years ago

Thanks for pointing that out! I fixed it.

Whitney Mathews Assistant Community Editor for Online

tolawdjk 7 years ago

I heard they were looking at getting rid of govt. districts and putting in an office of faith based districting with an idea of opening it up to the private sector.

Brownback was quoted as saying "Hopefully this idea will be better than the one that was before. I think this idea is really ready to pop."

JenksChris 7 years ago

Yup. it's call get more libs elected and you can run things - - - democratic republic and to the victors go the spoils. Move.

question4u 7 years ago

That's a pretty crass way of describing a democracy. Spoils? Is this war? What you're describing is tyranny by election. Is that what politics has become in Kansas? Anyone who doesn't think like you is your enemy and deserves no respect or consideration? Disgusting.

jhawkinsf 7 years ago

Redistricting is something that the Constitution commands of us. Every state does it every ten years. Both political parties use it as an opportunity to diminish the influence of the other. Any criticism of one party doing that must include equal criticism of the other party. It's probably just as frustrating being a Democrat in Kansas as it is being a Republican in Massachusetts.

Phillbert 7 years ago

Of course there are many states with nonpartisan redistricting, where the politicians don't get to drawn their own districts. That was proposed in Kansas last year. Every legislative leader - including the current AG - supported it except for Mike O'Neal.

Steve Jacob 7 years ago

Guessing all of Lawrence will be in Jenkins district. One KC district, one Wichita, one with Topeka/Lawrence among other smaller cities in eastern Kansas, and one huge western area.

usnsnp 7 years ago

Gerrymandering, definition should be, a process where it insures that politicians can keep their job without any real challenge. This process allows the politicians live off the tax payers, without representing all the people in their district, the is all politicians in all parties. In otherwise politicians are chicken.

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