Archive for Sunday, June 10, 2012

Stunning order

A stunning redistricting order has set the stage for some profound changes in the Kansas Legislature.

June 10, 2012


Just when many Kansans thought this year’s redistricting drama couldn’t get any more bizarre …

Late Thursday night, a panel of three federal judges released redistricting plans that could be the most significant development in Kansas politics in a century. After decades of district lines being drawn primarily to protect incumbents in the Kansas congressional delegation and Kansas Legislature, the judges drew district maps based on the stated criteria of protecting community interests while producing districts that are as compact and contiguous as possible and with populations that are as equal as they can practically be.

What the judges didn’t consider was what impact the new lines would have on incumbent officeholders. If you don’t believe it, just ask the 45 Kansas House members and six Kansas senators who now live in the same district as another incumbent House or Senate member. In a few of those cases, one incumbent already has decided not to run (or, in one case, is now deceased), but, in many other districts, the new lines could produce some ideologically interesting races in November.

The concentration of incumbents into fewer districts also left the state with no incumbents and, in some cases, no filed candidates for 25 Kansas House seats. That’s no small problem considering that the filing deadline still is noon Monday. It’s an opportunity for some political newcomers to get involved, but it also may be a boon to real estate agents or landlords if some incumbents decide to move away from their new competition and establish residency elsewhere.

It’s likely to be a busy weekend in political circles and an even busier Monday morning in the secretary of state’s office as candidates from across the state file.

In the big scheme of things, changes in Lawrence and Douglas County were relatively minor. Reps. Barbara Ballard, Paul Davis and Tom Sloan all still live in their same districts and are the only incumbents in those districts. However, Reps. Anthony Brown, R-Eudora, and Terri Lois Gregory, R-Baldwin City, now reside in the same district. Sen. Marci Francisco’s district now includes much of Jefferson County, and Sen. Tom Holland’s district stretches far into Leavenworth County, but neither district includes another incumbent.

All of Douglas County now lies in the 2nd Congressional District, according to the map adopted by the judges, which is almost identical to a map passed by the Kansas Senate early in the session but rejected by the House. That map also puts Manhattan in the 1st District, which was an outcome many legislators fought to avoid because they wanted to protect Rep. Lynn Jenkins’ Republican voter base and because they reportedly had been warned by U.S. House Speaker John Boehner that having U.S. Rep. Tim Huelskamp representing Manhattan might endanger the future of the National Bio- and Agro-defense Facility there.

That was only one of the political factors the judges chose to ignore in their decision. The judges acknowledged in their written order that because the court was trying “to restore compact, contiguous districts where possible, it is pushing a reset button” that produces districts that look far different than the previous maps. To those who would disagree with their conclusions, the judges offered a reminder that they “did not tread unreservedly into this political thicket. On short notice, with elections pending on the immediate horizon, we have acted solely to remedy a legislative default.”

Many legislators probably now regret their decision to allow the court to settle their redistricting feud. Some may be considering ways to appeal the court’s decision either before or after this year’s elections. The maps drawn by the judges have set the stage for significant changes in the Statehouse and perhaps more serious consideration of changes to our redistricting system. They certainly offer a vivid insight on just how political our redistricting process had become and how profoundly different it would be with the politics removed.


Jonathan Becker 5 years, 11 months ago

What makes this order stunning? Is it stunning the result is constitutional? Or is it the court designed districts with minimal population disparity and kept communities of interest together? Or is it stunning the political branches -- executive and legislative -- held to positions that could not get a majority vote and let the redistricting default to the judiciary? Or is the order stunning in that incumbency got trashed? I have searched the Supreme Court opinions and cannot find support for incumbency as a touchstone for one-man, one vote.

Stunning is the wrong adjective for this order. It might apply to the result or the political ineptitude of the legislators and governor, but not the order.

Ken Lassman 5 years, 11 months ago

What is stunning is that the judiciary can step in and cut through the Gordian knot of demagoguery, ideology and political infighting that has grown over recent years and festered to the point of dysfunctionality under Brownback. To have done so quickly, clearly and concisely is a credit to the idea of checks and balances in our government, and should ideally act as a wake up call to Kansas voters who have become so complacent with the downward slide of our state's political activities.

But the window will stay open for only a short time, at least if the powers that be have any say in the matter. Kobach refusing to give even another week before closing the filing deadline will make it harder to find qualified, community-oriented, reasonable candidates to run for the new opportunities that have sprung up. The extremists will have candidates ready and waiting for those positions: now is the time for all good Kansans to come to the aid of their districts!

Chris Golledge 5 years, 11 months ago


DougCounty states that Kobach has refused to extend the deadline. Kobach says he has no authority to do so.

So, is it the case that Kobach is playing a game of making this as difficult as possible, possibly in the hopes that any unclaimed districts will get Republican appointments, or does he really not have the authority to move the date? Who would have the authority to extend the filing deadline?

Richard Heckler 5 years, 11 months ago

Let it play out. It was legal so leave it alone.

The very conservative political element cost taxpayers big bucks = nothing fiscally conservative about this group that which includes Sam Brownback.

If some republicans don't like it they should resign and stay home.

tomatogrower 5 years, 11 months ago

The court just ungerrymandered decades of work. Now they will just have to wait for 10 years. I doubt if a challenge in court could stand, since they used the criteria that is suppose to be used. Before you Republicans start whining, I know both parties gerrymander in other states. Maybe courts should draw all the maps.

jayhawklawrence 5 years, 11 months ago

Our system of checks and balances saved us again from those who simply don't believe in playing fair.

And these are the very same politicians who want us to believe they will play fair when there are no unions left to represent the little guy.

I don't particularly like unions and sometimes I hate unions but unfortunately, in an evil and selfish world, the little guy oftentimes needs help that politiicians do not provide. In Kansas, especially, they work for people with deeper pockets.

JayhawkFan1985 5 years, 11 months ago

I'd love to see the democrats take at least one of the two houses in the legislature this year.

JackMcKee 5 years, 11 months ago

I hope I never see or hear the name Terry Lois Gregory again. That woman is repugnant. I'm not sure I would spit on her if she was on fire.

JackMcKee 5 years, 11 months ago

unfortunately, she'll probably carpetbag to one of the districts with no representative. She's really got nothing else going for her.

JayhawkFan1985 5 years, 11 months ago

Should we ask to see her birth certificate?

Bob Forer 5 years, 11 months ago

Generally, all politicians are pond scum, republicans and democrats alike. It is indeed a pleasure to watch as these power hunger maggots scramble to try to retain their power.

Chris Golledge 5 years, 11 months ago

"U.S. House Speaker John Boehner that having U.S. Rep. Tim Huelskamp representing Manhattan might endanger the future of the National Bio- and Agro-defense Facility there."

So, Boehner feels it is appropriate for a representative from Ohio to have a say in how Kansas districts are formed?

Smells of political gaming.

Chris Golledge 5 years, 11 months ago

Hmm, maybe we can get the courts to do this every time.

It would be kind of like having officials decide the layout of the playing field rather than the players.

pace 5 years, 11 months ago

What is stunning is Kobach manipulation of the situation. He failed at his job and used that failure to restrict and damage the filing for offices. He isn't stupid , he did both on purpose. Kobach should resign.

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