Archive for Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Senate leaders say it’s time to change redistricting process

From right, Senate vice president, John Vratil, R-Leawood, Senate Majority Leader Jay Emler, R-McPherson, and Senate president Steve Morris, R-Hugoton.

From right, Senate vice president, John Vratil, R-Leawood, Senate Majority Leader Jay Emler, R-McPherson, and Senate president Steve Morris, R-Hugoton.

April 24, 2012


Frustrated by the political warfare over redistricting, Kansas Senate leaders on Tuesday said they would push for a constitutional amendment to establish a bipartisan commission to develop new district maps.

The measure will be considered during the wrap-up legislative session that starts today.

“The acrimony over redistricting casts a pall over every issue,” said Senate Vice President John Vratil, R-Leawood.

Senate President Steve Morris, R-Hugoton, Senate Majority Leader Jay Emler, R-McPherson, and Vratil spoke with the Lawrence Journal-World on the upcoming wrap-up session.

As legislators return to work they face a daunting list of unfinished business, including writing a state budget and redistricting.

Every decade, legislators redraw state House, Senate, congressional and State Board of Education district boundaries to accommodate population shifts.

This round of redistricting has been particularly bruising and threatens to delay the Aug. 7 primaries until Aug. 28.

The proposal by Morris, Vratil and Emler, would set up a bipartisan redistricting commission that would draw new district maps, which would then be considered by the Legislature in an up or down vote without amendments.

The five-member commission would include one member selected by the Senate majority leader, Senate minority leader, House majority leader and House minority leader. The fifth member would be selected by a majority of the four other members and serve as chair of the commission.

The Senate leaders said they hoped to get their proposal on the ballot for voters to consider in November. Changes to the Kansas Constitution require two-thirds support in the House and Senate and a majority vote at the polls. If approved, the commission would be in effect for the next round of redistricting 10 years from now.

Little progress has been made on redistricting during the current session.

In the Senate, moderate Republicans have been fighting against conservative Republicans, who are aided by Gov. Sam Brownback and the Kansas Chamber of Commerce.

In the House, Republicans have been approving congressional maps that divide Democratic areas.

House Democratic Leader Paul Davis of Lawrence said, “We are the only state in the country that has not completed the redistricting process. That is disgraceful and embarrassing.”


Bob_Keeshan 5 years ago

A recycled proposal, first offered 3 years ago by the same leaders, though at the time it included current AG Derek Schmidt.

Now that he is AG, and now that he is sending letters about redistricting not being finished, I wonder how he feels about his 2009 proposal?

Orwell 5 years ago

Right. We need idiots in every position of power, just to guard against anyone who might make a lick of sense.

Fossick 5 years ago

Good grief. So according to certain elected officials, it's time to take one more thing out of the hands of Kansas' elected officials and assign it to an unelected commission that does not answer to voters?

Here's a suggestion for the Senate leaders: if you can't do the peoples' business, don't run for re-election to your current leadership posts. In fact, don't run for re-election at all. There are plenty of others in the state who are more than willing to do the job that you obviously find too big for you to accomplish.

While I realize the "Hon." in front of your name feels totally sweet, you're not earning it and it's time to give it back.

Dan Eyler 5 years ago

Well said Fossick.. There will be an effort by republicans to push out their own senate leadership and run better candidates to replace them. The current leadership has no principles and they need to move on. I will support that effort for sure. Any republican who wants to trade the vote of an elected official for that of an unelected committee are in real need of a reality check. Politically speaking that makes the current Kansas Senate leadership much like that of our political adversaries. It is the sale of your senate vote to the highest bidding committee or members, makes you unaccountable and we simply cannot tolerate that any longer.

tomatogrower 5 years ago

"Any republican who wants to trade the vote of an elected official for that of an unelected committee are in real need of a reality check."

It's a legislative committee made up of elected legislators. Then everyone votes on it. Why don't you learn something about how your government works before you say things like this. You just don't like the fact that it would be bipartisan. This isn't a dictatorship, as much as you would like it to be. I hope the people who these legislatures represent don't give in to you and the rest of the radicals who have taken over what used to be a sensible Republican party.

Fossick 5 years ago

Tomatogrower: "It's a legislative committee made up of elected legislators. "

The story doesn't say that, it says the commission will have four members appointed by elected officials and one elected by appointed officials. In fact, it will probably not have legislators on it because they would create the same kinds problems they create now. If the purpose was "a legislative committee made up of elected legislators," each house could just pass its bill today and send the results to a conference committee. They hash out the differences and each chamber votes up/down. That's how the process works today. The purpose of a new commission is to exclude individual legislators from the formative part of the process.

But it does crack me up how these people think they could a) get it through the House, and b) make it work. Member number five must be elected by a majority of the other four, or three votes, right? This means that one Dem is going to have to join two Republicans against his fellow or one Republican is going to have to join 2 Dems against the other Republican. If the Senate Republican screws the House Republican (the most likely occurrence), what do you suppose the odds are of the final bill passing the House?

progressive_thinker 5 years ago

The caption under the pictures is wrong. Starting from the right, it is Steve Morris.

gccs14r 5 years ago

It's the moderate Senate Republicans who came up with a decent map to begin with. It's the party radicals who would like nothing more than to put all the non-radicals in cattle cars and ship them off to a pink slime plant.

Redistricting should not be a political process, it should be simple math and geometry. Some states have been so bad about politicizing the process that redistricting has been taken over by the courts. I would rather it be given over to a computer, with the source code published and its neutrality confirmed by outside parties.

Fossick 5 years ago

"it should be simple math and geometry..."

Should be but it's not. Remember, even courts' solutions are not mathematically neutral but are also outcome-based. For example, it was the federal courts who created (or ordered the creation of) a certain number of majority-minority districts in various places around the nation.* This is not to say that the white legislators had not abused the process (they had) but to say that the court's solution is not "math and geometry." "Bi-partisan" commissions work the same way - the outcome is less partisan, but it's "fixed" in the interest of the commission members and their friends. In the latter two cases, the voters have nothing to say about the outcome.

The only way to do it math and geometry is to disregard anything but headcount (e.g. race, party affiliation, city lines, county lines, neighborhood lines). I'm cool with that, but the courts are not and have not been since the day they got involved in the process.

  • Ironically it was white Republicans in the South who worked with black Democrats to create these districts. Their success was a contributing factor to the near extinction of the white Southern Democrat in Congress.

kansanjayhawk 5 years ago

That is not correct the leadership map creates Democratic districts north Lawrence to Jeff co and east of Lawrence.

Jimo 5 years ago

Heck, a computer program running on an Ipad with a handful of priority factors could spit out a map in 5 minutes.

  1. X people per district (essentially set by federal law)
  2. Compact districts (rectangles / squares)
  3. Respect existing political borders where possible (counties, townships)
  4. As competitive as possible (maximum balance between political registration)

Instead, we're required to game the system -- i.e., spread the Democrats around (a cousin to "can't trust the voters to pick officeholders so let the officeholders pick their voters").

No wonder virtually everyone feels their elected officials ignore them. They do! Why not? To paraphrase Mao: we (the Party) will dissolve the people and elect a new one.

gudpoynt 5 years ago

"The five-member commission would include one member selected by the Senate majority leader, Senate minority leader, House majority leader and House minority leader. The fifth member would be selected by a majority of the four other members and serve as chair of the commission."

So, w/ the current legislature, there's a 99% chance it would be all Republicans.

While that may be indicative of the current make up of the legislature, it's not bi-partisan. Bi-partisan would mean an equal number from the two major parties are represented.

Equi-partisan, milti-partisan, or omni-partisan, (whatever you want to call it) would mean an equal number from all parties are represented.

But shouldn't it really be NON-partisan?

Currently, elected officials are partly responsible for the crafting the next set of rules by which they (or future candidates from their party) might get (re)elected. That's like saying "whoever scores a touchdown get's to choose from where to kickoff."

This type of unfairness is blatantly obvious to an 8-year-old getting schooled by an older sibling playing "make it, take it" in the driveway. However, there has yet to be a political force bold enough to seriously challenge the precedent. Why? Because even the little brother getting his butt handed to him (i.e. Kansas Democrats) isn't willing to relinquish the power, should he ever get the upper hand in the future.

Instead, the minority party is content to keep the precedent, and simply whine and moan as much as possible during the redistricting process in an embarrassingly hypocritical effort at damage control, which often bears only meager and bitter fruit.

Enough already. The only way to make it truly fair is to make it NON-partison. Not bi-partisan, not multi-partisan, but non-partisan. And the only way to do that is to take the human element out of it as much as possible -- especially the human element whose future power depends heavily on the outcome. Doi!

It's demographics and geography, which can readily be handled by a set of algorithms with census data plugged into it.

Fossick 5 years ago

"So, w/ the current legislature, there's a 99% chance it would be all Republicans."

Actually, with the House and Senate minority leaders both being Democrats, the odds of the commission being all Republicans is slightly lower than 99%. 99% lower to be exact.

gudpoynt 5 years ago

Ah. Yes, you are right. I should have said there is a 99% chance it will be a Republican majority given the current makeup of the legislature. Furthermore, I'd predict that it would stay that way unless some Dems get some seats back (and moderates keep theirs).

In any event, doesn't change my view about how the rules that determine how legislators are elected into power, should not be made by the legislators themselves. It's "make it, take it" politics.

tomatogrower 5 years ago

Bipartisan? Represent all of Kansas? What a concept.

Clark Coan 5 years ago

It should be a NONPARTISAN Commission like they use in Iowa. There are other parties.

gudpoynt 5 years ago

Aside from all that... the fact that the House Speaker "Gerry" O'Neal, whose partisan record speaks for itself, can just plop himself down as the chair of the redistricting committee, is an indication of systematic flaws.

O'Neal explains his self-appointment thusly: "There are really only a couple of us who've had experience doing this [...] 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."

camper 5 years ago

I am not sure I see where a commission will help. A plan brought forth by a commission still would go to the House and Senate for approval. Am I missing something? This might just be a case of unnecessary expansion of government via a worthless commission.

camper 5 years ago

In other news, "The U.S. Department of Justice is looking into complaints that the State of Kansas is not doing enough to provide assistance for thousands of Kansans with physical disabilities who are stuck on a waiting list for services for upward of three years".

It is a shame that they are spending energy and fighting about redistricting rather than handling things that are critical for many. Should they not be serving Kansans? Politicians for you.

wastewatcher 5 years ago

Two simple questions ---- First wher is the Governor in this plan, remember he has to approve the plan. And second ------ why would the democrats get equal representation on this plan when they are so badly outnumbered in the Legislature? It seems to call into question equal represetation for the voters.

Fossick 5 years ago

"he has to approve the plan."

No, he doesn't. A constitutional amendment requires a 2/3 majority n the house and senate, and a majority approval by voters. It requires nothing from the Governor.

Orwell 5 years ago

Well, then… one less partisan extremist roadblock.

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