Advertisement

Archive for Friday, September 2, 2011

Officials want Douglas County put in one congressional district

A Congressional redistricting hearing was held at the Dole Institute of Politics on Sept. 2, 2011. Area residents and officials voiced their opinions regarding redistricting in light of the 2010 census.

September 2, 2011, 1:20 p.m. Updated September 2, 2011, 3:00 p.m.

Advertisement

Sen. Tim Owens, center, listens to Rep. Paul Davis, right, of Lawrence, give his thoughts on redistricting during a hearing at the Dole Center of Politics on Sept. 2, 2011. Local residents and officials came to the hearing to tell legislators what they wanted out of the process.

Sen. Tim Owens, center, listens to Rep. Paul Davis, right, of Lawrence, give his thoughts on redistricting during a hearing at the Dole Center of Politics on Sept. 2, 2011. Local residents and officials came to the hearing to tell legislators what they wanted out of the process.

Folks spanning the political spectrum on Friday urged legislators to put Douglas County in one congressional district.

"We would like to be made whole," Douglas County Commissioner Nancy Thellman said.

Her comments were made to the Special Committee on Redistricting during a public hearing at the Dole Institute of Politics, 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 alleged 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 charged with 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 that 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. State Sen. Ralph Ostmeyer, R-Grinnell, said he picked up 780 population in his vast western Kansas district through the recalculation.

As far as the congressional districts, Democrats allege 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. "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 rancor of 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.

Comments

Charles L Bloss Jr 2 years, 7 months ago

I live in rural Douglas county. I prefer the county be in one legislative district. I even have problems ordering things off of the internet due to the split. Get it fixed. I used to have Hensley as my senator, now I have Francisco. I was and still am quite happy with Hensley. Thank you, Lynn

0

Cait McKnelly 2 years, 7 months ago

In response to the title of this article, my husband said, "I have a greater chance of sleeping with Christie Brinkley!" Yeah. Like they're going to give up their chance to even further gerrymander this district.

0

blindrabbit 2 years, 7 months ago

rockchalk1977: It's called gerrymandering and has given us the likes of Jim Ryun and Lynn Jenkins; need I say more!

0

dabbindan 2 years, 7 months ago

the democrats possess such an excess of influence in this state that it only serves the interest of fairness and justice to put the brakes on them.

oh look, they're down, let's kick them again! that's the spirit!

0

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 2 years, 7 months ago

"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."

Factors such as making sure that Democratic-voting Lawrence has as little effect on election results as possible.

0

blindrabbit 2 years, 7 months ago

Too much common sense for this to ever fly!

0

Commenting has been disabled for this item.