Archive for Thursday, June 2, 2011

Drawing the lines

The state’s redistricting process is bound to be political, but leaders should try hard to keep it from disrupting other business during the 2012 legislative session.

June 2, 2011


The process of redrawing congressional and legislative districts in Kansas has officially begun and promises to be as politically charged as ever.

The House and Senate redistricting committees that will redraw the districts based on 2010 U.S. Census numbers held their first meetings on Wednesday. In the House, Speaker Mike O’Neal took the unusual step of naming himself as chairman of his chamber’s 17-member committee. He said he claimed the post for himself because of his interest and experience in the redistricting process. He was involved in redrawing the lines in 1992 and chaired the House redistricting committee in 2002.

“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,” he said.

The House’s top Democrat, Minority Leader Paul Davis of Lawrence, also claimed a seat on the committee, which has 17 Republicans and six Democrats, mirroring the partisan split in the House, which has 92 Republicans and 33 Democrats.

It’s often said that redistricting is the most political activity undertaken by legislators. It also can be a highly contentious process that stirs political passions that spill over to other legislative activities. Ten years ago, unrelated pieces of legislation were dragged into the bitter redistricting battle. Having the top Republican and Democratic House leaders serving on the redistricting committee seems to raise the odds of that happening again, but we hope cooler heads will prevail.

Actually, the battles may be somewhat subdued by the fact that Republicans hold such large majorities in both the House and Senate. Davis already has noted that Democrats really have no expectation that they will “get their way” on most redistricting matters.

Perhaps the most important redistricting issue for Lawrence residents will be the new boundaries for the 2nd and 3rd congressional districts. Lawrence is now split almost equally between the two districts, but higher population in the Kansas metropolitan area will make it necessary to trim the 3rd district and perhaps put more or all of Douglas County into the 2nd.

After the last redistricting process, several legislators proposed a bill to create a nonpartisan redistricting commission that would redraw district lines primarily based on population and “communities of interest” rather than political advantage. Unfortunately, the measure got little support from legislators who weren’t inclined to give up that piece of their political power.

So the process begins again. The best Kansans can hope for is that any political battles over redistricting don’t stymie progress on other legislation of even greater importance to the state.


enochville 4 years, 6 months ago

Here I am raising hell. And I intend to do a lot more than post this comment. I am going to learn what constitutes illegal gerrymandering and see if we can't get the feds to intervene if they split Lawrence again. It is absurd that they split Lawrence between two districts simply to dilute the influence of the Democrats living there. That is gerrymandering if anything ever was.

From USLegal: "Gerrymander means to create an artificial civil division within a particular locale for an improper purpose. It refers to the drawing of boundaries of legislative districts to benefit one party or group and handicap another. Gerrymandering seeks to violate the constitutional mandate of "one man-one vote" by created legislative districts of unequal populations. Gerrymandering seeks to draw legislative districts that isolate member of a particular political party so that a maximum number of elected representatives of that party will be elected."

enochville 4 years, 6 months ago

It looks like the US Supreme Court ruled that gerrymandering is legal unless it hurts an ethnic minority.

From wiki: "In a decision on June 28, 2006, the United States Supreme Court upheld most of a Texas congressional map engineered in 2003 by former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay.[47] The 7–2 decision allows state legislatures to redraw and gerrymander districts as often as they like (not just after the decennial census). Thus they may work to protect their political parties' standing and number of seats, so long as they do not harm racial and ethnic minority groups. A 5–4 majority declared one Congressional district unconstitutional in the case because of harm to an ethnic minority."

Well, perhaps I need to start a group to educate the public about raise public and media pressure on the redistricting committee. I hope this message is forwarded to the committee, so they know what is coming. Gerrymandering unfairly cancels out the vote of Democrats in the state.

jhawkinsf 4 years, 6 months ago

It's a real bummer to be a Democrat in Kansas. Just as it is to be a Republican in Massachusetts. If it's any consolation, maybe it evens out in the long run.

William Weissbeck 4 years, 5 months ago

The comparison to Massachusetts is probably not fair to Mass. They've had GOP governors, and have a GOP Senator. The Mass. GOP doesn't religiously demonize the Democrats.

jhawkinsf 4 years, 5 months ago

Point taken. How about it's a bummer being a (pick ... Libertarian, Green, Independent) in any of the 50 states.

avarom 3 years, 5 months ago

Kansas is such a mess.....Legislatures can't re-district and require legal intervention and you Kansas people rely on the legislatures to propose and vote on your bills...what a joke on you. Now the Legislatures and others want to sue........crying over spilled milk. lol

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