Topeka — A flurry of map-making by Kansas House members left their Redistricting Committee with 18 proposals Friday for redrawing the state’s congressional districts, creating the possibility of a drawn-out debate over picking one.
House members submitted 10 proposals alone Friday, some variations on plans they’d already seen for adjusting the lines of the four districts to account for shifts in population over the past decade. The 1st District of western and central Kansas is nearly 58,000 residents short of the ideal district population of 713,280 and must pick up territory, though there’s disagreement on where.
House Speaker Mike O’Neal, a Hutchinson Republican who appointed himself the committee’s chairman, told members that he doesn’t plan to allow “drawing on the fly” during debate, so the committee will take up-or-down votes on entire proposals. He scheduled hearings for next week and a vote for March 12.
O’Neal acknowledged it’s relatively easy for legislators to draw maps with only four districts using the Legislature’s special computer software.
“It’s kind of addictive,” said O’Neal, who submitted two similar proposals himself.
The proposals before the House committee include a bipartisan plan approved by the Senate last month. But many Republicans don’t like it because it would create a slightly more Democratic 2nd District in eastern Kansas for Congresswoman Lynn Jenkins, the senior member of the state’s all-GOP delegation in the U.S. House.
Many Republican legislators and GOP Gov. Sam Brownback want to keep Manhattan, home of Kansas State University, in the 2nd District, rather than having a growing 1st District swallow it up, as the Senate plan does.
House members are considering splitting either Topeka or the Kansas City area between two districts, and a few plans divide both. Most of their plans reunite Lawrence in a single district, rather than leaving it split between two, as it is now.
House Minority Leader Paul Davis, of Lawrence, the Redistricting Committee’s ranking Democrat, said the process of finding an acceptable plan has become chaotic.
“A lot of these maps are making pretty radical changes to the existing districts,” he said.