Archive for Friday, September 2, 2011

Douglas County officials ask to be put in single congressional district

September 2, 2011


Douglas County is getting the short end of the redistricting stick in two ways, local officials on Friday told key legislators who will be re-drawing political district maps.

First, Douglas County was split between two congressional districts in 2002, and, secondly, the county suffers by losing population in a census adjustment that is unlike any in the United States.

“We would like to be made whole,” Douglas County Commissioner Nancy Thellman said to the Special Committee on Redistricting.

The public hearing at the Dole Institute of Politics was not far from the dividing line in Lawrence between the 2nd and 3rd U.S. House districts.

Prior to 2002, Douglas County was in the 3rd district, which also includes Johnson and Wyandotte counties.

But Republicans in charge of the Legislature split Douglas County with the western part going to the 2nd and the eastern part remaining in the 3rd.

Democrats claim the split was done to reduce the number of Democratic voters in the 3rd, which then was represented by a Democrat.

But on Friday, Republicans joined Democrats, saying it made more sense to unite Douglas County and place it totally in the 2nd or 3rd districts.

Jim Mullins, a former Douglas County Republican Party chairman, said it was difficult for political parties to run elections with the county split in two.

Douglas County Commissioner Mike Gaughan, interim Lawrence Chamber of Commerce head Hank Booth and others also said it would be less confusing to voters to have the county in one congressional district.

After the meeting, the co-chairs of the redistricting committee, state Sen. Tim Owens, R-Overland Park, and House Speaker Mike O’Neal, R-Hutchinson, said they had nothing against uniting Lawrence, but that many factors had to be considered before they start proposing district lines.

“I don’t want to make any final decisions until we have heard from everyone,” Owens said.

After every 10-year census, the state Legislature is responsible for redrawing district boundaries for Kansas’ four congressional districts, 165 legislative districts and the 10 state board of education districts.

The lines are drawn to account for population changes so each elected official represents a similar number of people.

The 2010 census showed that the 3rd district experienced significant growth and to be similar in population it must give up more than 50,000 people. The western Kansas-based 1st district must gain a similar amount because of dwindling population.

Another issue of contention in Lawrence is the re-calculation of census figures that allows students to chose their home for redistricting population purposes rather than their campus. Kansas is the only state that does this and it has the effect of reducing the population total of places like Lawrence, home of Kansas University.

Lawrence lost 12,000 people for redistricting purposes, even though these people live in Lawrence most of the year and many are registered to vote in Lawrence.

House Democratic Leader Paul Davis of Lawrence said, “We have an inequitable situation.” Davis and Douglas County Clerk Jamie Shew told the committee that this has effect of diluting legislative representation in Lawrence. They said 12,000 people represents about one-half state House district.

But rural legislators pushed back. Sen. Ralph Ostmeyer, R-Grinnell, said he picked up 780 population in his vast western Kansas district through the recalculation. And any change to the policy would require an amendment to the State Constitution.

As far as the congressional districts, Democrats claim there is a “D.C. to Topeka Plan” being hatched by Republicans that would move the Democratic stronghold of Kansas City, Kan., in Wyandotte County out of the 3rd district and place it in the 1st.

“Throwing the state’s most urban county into the state’s most rural district, would be a disservice to the people in western Kansas, and a disservice to people in the Kansas City metro area,” Senate Democratic Leader Anthony Hensley of Topeka said.

Republican leaders indicated they weren’t interested in the proposal, although they didn’t dismiss it entirely. “That map looks very ugly to me,” O’Neal said.

Figuring out where to draw lines to achieve the most equal districts “is like pushing your finger in a balloon,” Owens said. In addition to uniting Lawrence, he said the committee has heard that Manhattan, which is in the 2nd District, doesn’t want to be moved to the 1st and Emporia, which is in the 1st wants to be put in the 2nd.

Davis said a lot of the partisan wrangling over redistricting could be solved by putting the process in the hands of a non-partisan commission.

He said drawing district boundaries is a major concern of every legislator. “That process sometimes and oftentimes taints other issues that the Legislature has to debate,” he said.

The committee will hold several more public hearings. The Legislature will approve a plan during the 2012 session, which starts in January.


JayhawkFan1985 6 years, 9 months ago

Lawrence and Douglas County paid the state of Kansas to keep the SRS office open. Maybe Lawrence and Douglas County could pay the state to 1) eliminate the federally unconstitutional requirement in our state constitution required to "adjust" the census and 2) place all of Douglas County in a us representative district comprised of Shawnee, Douglas and Wyandotte Counties and possibly Leavenworth County if needed.

JayhawkFan1985 6 years, 9 months ago

by unconstitutional I mean I think the adjustment of the census flies in the face of the "one man one vote" principle. You live where you live when the US government does the Census, not where you used to live. This adjustment also hurts other communities like Manhattan and Junction City due to Fort Riley and KSU so it is not unique to Lawrence.

ljwhirled 6 years, 9 months ago

With Mr. Brownback in the Governor's mansion, I don't see an equitable redistricting plan coming any time soon.

Remember, Sam Brownback works for his Republican masters, not for the people of the State of Kansas. We are reminded of this again and again as he continues to make decisions to reject much needed Federal funding for ideological reasons.

What is going to happen is exactly what the Republican Party wants to happen. The districts will be gerrymandered all over the place so that the districts are divided up into areas that are winnable by Republicans and ONLY Republicans.

Watch. They are going to split up Lawrence and put Wyandotte County in the 1st. Tis in a state that is essentially a rectangle (and easy to divide into 4 equal parts) the resulting districts will be oddly shaped and possibly discontinuous lumps.

This will result in a court battle and a bunch of Lawyers getting fat off of State coffers defending Kansas. In the end it won't matter because in reality only POWER matters and here in Kansas our voters have handed the controls to a few extreme, backward religious fanatics.

Fred Whitehead Jr. 6 years, 9 months ago

I could not agree with you more, lj. The facist party that has shlepped into the governer's office will have nothing of this plan, their only agenda is to oppose and defeat the lawfully elected President of the United States. This is total devotion to their agenda of making Kansas a complete splotch of red on their map and removing any possible chance of the Democratic Party haveing any say in the disjointed agenda of the current governer.

chootspa 6 years, 9 months ago

I see that the copy and paste bot is... oh wait, that's what you usually say to someone else, isn't it?

Flap Doodle 6 years, 9 months ago

After I've posted that phrase hundreds of times, you can consider that I've assumed merrill's role. Until then, not so much.

wsks 6 years, 9 months ago

A map with Wyandotte County in the first district would never hold up in court, and anybody who proposes that knows it. Maybe the plan, if it's a real one, is to try to get by with that deal for one election.

The problem of the first district is simple: put the Gage Park Zoo in the first, and count the animals.

Sigmund 6 years, 9 months ago

I like having Lawrence split between two districts. I have two representatives I can contact on issues that are important to me! When I call a representative and they ask where I am from, I simply tell them I am from Lawrence, the staffers who answer the phone never ask "which part of Lawrence do you live in?"

Sigmund 6 years, 9 months ago

blackcopter (anonymous) replies… "That's why many Republicans support this kind of gerrymandering. They don't want the largely liberal Douglas County to have a chance at a voice in Congress."

And how did that work out for the Republicans in 2000? Dennis Moore (D) represented the 3rd from January 3, 1999 – January 3, 2011, and Nancy Boyda (D) represented Payless Shoe Source, I mean the 2nd, from January 3, 2006 – January 3, 2008. So on balance since the Republicans redistricting in 2000, Lawrence in the middle of a red state was largely represented by Democrats.

But hey, it's your funeral.

Sigmund 6 years, 9 months ago

blackcopter (anonymous) replies… "I think many of them (Republicans) even think that it's a moral and ethical thing to do. It's amazing to me that they can rationalize such underhanded behavior."

Oh please! Like the Democrats never rationalize such "underhanded" behavior when they win power? If you want representation, then win elections. Lawrence is better off in a politically split district(s) where we can make the difference and swing the result to one party or the other.

Sigmund 6 years, 9 months ago

ljwhirled (anonymous) says… "What is going to happen is exactly what the Republican Party wants to happen. The districts will be gerrymandered all over the place so that the districts are divided up into areas that are winnable by Republicans and ONLY Republicans."

Don't be a hatuh. Don't hate the players, hate the game

Bob Forer 6 years, 9 months ago

Never gonna happen as long as the Republican Party rules Kansas. The number one priority of a politician is reelection, and anything that threatens that is hastily dealt with. I am not suggesting that the dems are much better. They're all scum, although the repubs tend to be a little more scummier. If the shoe was on the other foot, I would expect the democratic politicians to react in the same manner as the repubs. Folks, we've lost our democracy in this country. Quit fooling yourself that either party has moral superiority. They're both lower than the lowest snake in the grass.

Sigmund 6 years, 9 months ago

Put Lawrence in a strongly Democratic district and watch as any Democrat who gets elected to take us for granted as they pander to those counties in their district that have much bigger campaign contributors. There is a lot examples, pick your favorite. Put Lawrence in a strongly Republican district and experience the same fate.

However, put part Lawrence in a moderately Republican district and part of Lawrence in a moderately Democratic district, kind of like 2000 - 2010, and Lawrence becomes relevant to both.

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