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Archive for Sunday, May 27, 2012

Remove politics, and redistricting map falls in line

Reporter takes swing at drawing new boundaries

The Legislature and Gov. Sam Brownback, mired in political wrangling, failed to come to agreement on new district lines so the task has fallen to a three-judge panel in Kansas City, Kan. Here is a proposal by reporter Scott Rothschild that tries to prevent splitting of major cities, and keeps population deviations to minimum.

The Legislature and Gov. Sam Brownback, mired in political wrangling, failed to come to agreement on new district lines so the task has fallen to a three-judge panel in Kansas City, Kan. Here is a proposal by reporter Scott Rothschild that tries to prevent splitting of major cities, and keeps population deviations to minimum.

May 27, 2012

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Kansas has a simple shape and only four congressional districts, so how difficult can it be to draw a redistricting map?

Apparently, pretty difficult. Kansas is the last state in the nation to redraw its political boundaries based on population changes over the past 10 years.

The Legislature and Gov. Sam Brownback couldn’t come to an agreement after months of political wrangling, and so now a three-judge panel will decide the matter.

Having watched this fight up close during the recently completed 2012 legislative session, I decided to try my hand.

My attempt was with the congressional map because the state Senate has 40 districts and the House, 125 districts, and would take more time than I had. The major fight over Senate redistricting has been between moderate and conservative Republicans. In addition, the 10 State of Education districts will be determined by the final Senate map.

In congressional redistricting, the conservative House has produced plans that would split up Democratic voting strength, first by trying to remove Wyandotte County from the 3rd Congressional District and placing it in the 1st, then by swooping into east Topeka and removing it from the 2nd and placing it in the 1st, and finally by curling over into east Lawrence and placing it in the 1st.

See a pattern here? The 1st is one of the largest districts, area-wise, in the nation and one of the most conservative, too.

So, with the help of Corey Carnahan, the mapping computer software expert at the Kansas Legislative Research Department, I drew a congressional map.

It took about 30 minutes, and then Carnahan said the fun part was that I got to name the map.

Legislators had introduced at least 30 congressional maps during the session. One legislator named maps after his nieces and nephews; others received Kansas-related names such as Tallgrass 1, Free Willie, Sunflower, Eisenhower, etc.

I named mine after my childhood baseball hero: Mickey Mantle. In addition, I thought Mantle was appropriate as a symbol of nonpartisanship. He was a switch-hitter, batting with power from the left and right.

The No. 1 goal of drawing districts is to have them as equal in population as possible so that everyone’s vote has equal weight. Based on Kansas’ population, the four congressional districts should each have 713,280 people.

That means the district boundaries had to move because since the last time lines were drawn in 2002, the 1st District, which covers all of western Kansas and much of central Kansas, was 57,970 people under the ideal size. Meanwhile, the 3rd, which includes Johnson, Wyandotte and eastern Douglas counties, was 54,289 over the ideal size. The Wichita-based 4th and the 2nd, which includes western Douglas County, also needed adjustments but not as much.

Another major rule in redistricting is to try to maintain communities of interest within the district. Putting east Lawrence in a mostly rural 1st would seem to run counter to that idea.

And other major guidelines are to try to make the districts as compact as possible and with as little shifting as possible.

My cure for the 1st District’s underpopulation was simply to put Riley County in the district.

Officials from Riley County, which includes the city of Manhattan, and House Speaker Mike O’Neal, R-Hutchinson, do not like this idea, but their stated reasons do not fall within the redistricting guidelines.

Essentially, their argument has been that the current representative, freshman Tim Huelskamp, an ultra-conservative Republican, is not on good terms with U.S. House Speaker John Boehner, also a Republican, and that could hurt Kansas as it seeks funding for the federal bioterrorism lab that is supposed to be built in Manhattan. Huelskamp has denied there is any rift between Boehner and himself. The Riley County advocates want to stay in the 2nd, represented by U.S. Rep. Lynn Jenkins, R-Topeka, and she has stated she wants to keep Riley County, too.

But Huelskamp, naturally, would rather not have a portion of Lawrence in his district.

For me, putting Riley County in the 1st solved several problems. It gave the 1st the needed population, and it is snug up to the 1st now and seemed like a natural march toward more population.

After making several other adjustments, my map was pretty much right on the money for population with the largest deviation being the 3rd, which was four people over the ideal size. And the map avoided splitting any major city. It puts Douglas County wholly in the 2nd and makes the 3rd a Johnson County and Wyandotte County district with a bit of Miami County.

In the end, these districts could be drawn any number of ways, and political considerations can seep into every boundary change.

The old saying is that redistricting is the one time that candidates get to pick their voters, instead of the other way around. But this time, Kansas’ redistricting lines most likely will be set by the courts with testimony starting Tuesday before the three-judge panel.

Comments

Nikonman 1 year, 10 months ago

If the Demacrats were able to redraw the map they could have 3 House reps and possibly both Senate seats for the next 150 years or until the country went broke. All they would have to do is focus on the big population areas and they would be assured of taking the seats. Let the first district consist of only rural areas.

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optimist 1 year, 10 months ago

This is very much a political process. That's why it is left to the ligislative branch. Elections have consequences. Unelected judges are no more objective and should not be in control of this process.

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KansasLiberal 1 year, 10 months ago

Thank you for taking the time to do this. I thought that it would only take 15 minutes, but 30 minutes is still pretty good. Given that it took a half an hour for this map, the Senate and House maps should only take an hour apiece. These judges should be done in a half a day, or a full day if they want to get their lunches paid for.

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Centerville 1 year, 10 months ago

If Rothschild is advocating something, you can be sure that it's been vetted, if not originated, by the KDP. But fall for it anyway, so as not to trouble yourself.

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Alyosha 1 year, 10 months ago

Rockchalk, what outcry are you talking about? Also, what does Illinois have to do with Kansas Republicans not being able to complete the redistricting map?

Lastly, what evidence do you have that the reporter is a "good buddy" with Paul Davis? Absent any evidence, your claim is wholly without merit and will be rightly ignored by citizens with ethical standards of discussion and argumentation. Moreover, even if they were friends, that has nothing to do with how well the reporter's map fits the legal requirements of redistricting.

The absence of agreement with your political views does not mean that map is motivated by the opposite of your political views. Think about it.

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rockchalk1977 1 year, 10 months ago

I'm sure we'll hear the same outcry over Illinois Democrats and their shameless gerrymander of congressional districts. In Illinois, the politically rich get politically richer.

http://www.americanthinker.com/blog/2011/06/illinois_democratic_gerrymander_a_disgrace.html

Scott did you also get some help from your good buddy Paul Davis on this one?

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Uhlrick_Hetfield_III 1 year, 10 months ago

Scott has the right idea, keeping politics out of a fair drawing of the map. Both the House and the Senate failed to do so in the legislature. The one difference I note between the House's motivations and the Senates is that the House gerrymandering was based on the overall interests of the Republican Party writ large, and the Senate's gerrymandering was done specifically out of self interest by Tim Owens for he and some of his associates. That to me goes beyond politics into outright political corruption since Senator Owens was using his position to benefit his own personal interests, interests from which he most assuredly will benefit from financially. Am I wrong here?

Kudos need to go to Senator Haley for his efforts early on to thwart the House's map that tried to put Wyandotte County into the First District. Perhaps if he had been in charge of the Senate Redistricting Committee we wouldn't be in the mess we're in now thanks to all those Republican lawyers in the Senate leadership.

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Centerville 1 year, 10 months ago

This could have been settled weeks ago if six Republican senators weren't so afraid of being primaried.

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Alyosha 1 year, 10 months ago

Good serious nonpartisan attempt at drawing the map, and excellent non-knee jerk comments. Good to see the community engage in problem solving with an eye to the general good and not just to the cancer of extreme self interest and extreme partisan interest. Yay! See, it can be done. We the people, approaching problems with ethical standards, can indeed well govern ourselves. If you think government is the problem, remember that in the US, we the people are the government, and responsibility for its functioning well rests always with us: so if you think government is the problem, it's actually more the cae that you are part of the problem.

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bobberboy 1 year, 10 months ago

get rid of that pig oneal and things will begin to fall into to place !

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none2 1 year, 10 months ago

Scott, I would suggest you make one further change. Southeast Kansas is a community of interest There are nine counties in the corner that make up that area that is usually associated with southeast Kansas.

All of southeast Kansas is currently in the 2nd district except for Montgomery county. I would suggest you give Montgomery back to the second district as it was in the past. Then grow what needs to be added to the 4th district by creeping north into Lyon county. You could also put part of Kingman county into the 4th without absorbing the city of Kingman.

What would have to be added back into the first could either be taken by the Area around Marshall County, Pottawatomi, and northern possibly northern Lyon county.

Note: I don't know the population stats in one easy county by county number, but I would try to rectify the southeast Kansas issue. I think it was a commenter on the CJOnline, that pointed out that it was politics that moved it out of the 4th district a while back. Though I'm not from southeast Kansas, I know people that are, and they are a legitimate community of interest.

Finally, I would commend you for getting a a fairly decent map in such short of time. Just think if the legislature had spent the same amount of time you did at the beginning, then not only would this all be behind us, but they would have had plenty of time to save us from Sharia law and all those other critical topics that we struggle with in our daily lives.

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JayhawkFan1985 1 year, 10 months ago

When it comes down to it, there must be a KC district, a greater Wichita district, a NE KS district and a rural district. To put any or all of one of the three big cities, that is, KCK, Lawrence or Topeka in the rural big 1st district is as ridiculous as the GOP has become nationally.

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brewmaster 1 year, 10 months ago

Joseph McCathy would be so proud of Kansas Republicans.

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Carol Bowen 1 year, 10 months ago

What a great approach. Let software take care of redistributing. Democracy would take care of representation.

Is there some reason this small map was not available in the newspaper? Looks like the Journal World is phasing out print media.

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yourworstnightmare 1 year, 10 months ago

I find it hilarious that Riley County, Manhattan, and Fort Riley are fighting hard to stay out of Huelskamp's district. I can't blame them.

Huelskamp is an extremist right winger who alienates the right wing leaders in his own party. He is too extreme for military folks at Fort Riley and NBAF folks in Manhattan. His message resonates with the rural, agrarian xenophobes that dominate western Kansas but is a tougher sell to the more cosmopolitan adults in the military and in Manhattan.

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pace 1 year, 10 months ago

Bleeding and bruised Kansas, so many trolls in the wheat. Spent my youth traveling around Kansas, met wonderful people, now I wonder what their children have been into.

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OzD 1 year, 10 months ago

Put Riley County in the 1st, have their voters help elect a new rep for the district, problem solved, everybody is happy except the current incumbent.

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yourworstnightmare 1 year, 10 months ago

"Essentially, their argument has been that the current representative, freshman Tim Huelskamp, an ultra-conservative Republican, is not on good terms with U.S. House Speaker John Boehner, also a Republican, and that could hurt Kansas as it seeks funding for the federal bioterrorism lab that is supposed to be built in Manhattan."

The answer is not to gerrymander congressional maps. The answer is to elect a better representative for the first. Huelskamp is so far to the extreme right that even John Boehner is put off by him.

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JackMcKee 1 year, 10 months ago

Only in Kansas do you have one group of republicans fighting another group of republicans that sends redistricting to the courts. It's ridiculous. Is there a state where liberals have so much infighting that they can't come to an agreement on redistricting? Is there a group that is more difficult to get along with and unwilling to compromise than the current crop of far right politicians? You want to know whose fault gridlock is? Take a guess.

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1 year, 10 months ago

@bigtoe. Assuming you're not being sarcastic, I agree with you. However, You have to keep in mind that Scott might have the dreaded "D" or even worse and "I" after his name. Once the solid Rep voters in western KS (who can't see how the GnOP is not their father's GOP) see either of those two letters they'll vote against him. That's how The Guv got elected, people saw the "R" after his name and voted for that.

@cleanview

Scott put Riley in the 1st District because it's the sensible thing to do. From the article, "My cure for the 1st District’s underpopulation was simply to put Riley County in the district.

Officials from Riley County, which includes the city of Manhattan, and House Speaker Mike O’Neal, R-Hutchinson, do not like this idea, but their stated reasons do not fall within the redistricting guidelines.

Essentially, their argument has been that the current representative, freshman Tim Huelskamp, an ultra-conservative Republican, is not on good terms with U.S. House Speaker John Boehner, also a Republican, and that could hurt Kansas as it seeks funding for the federal bioterrorism lab that is supposed to be built in Manhattan."

Arguing that a Congressman is not on good terms with the Speaker of the House does not fall within redistricting guidelines, plain and simple. That simply is bringing base political bovine fecal matter into the mix.

So far, this map makes sense, where the others don't.

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tomatogrower 1 year, 10 months ago

Hopefully the judges will decide to do the right thing. They can argue all they want about the lab, but that is still politics. And I thought Brownback didn't want any federal dollars? I thought he wanted private sector jobs? It's just pork barrel spending. And why shouldn't the lab be in the seams district that it serves? Is it because a lot of farmers don't want it in Kansas?

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bigtoe 1 year, 10 months ago

Scott has so many good ideas, on a daily basis, that he needs to put those ideas to the test at the ballot box and run for Governor to save Kansas.

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cleanview 1 year, 10 months ago

Mr. Rothschild's argument is simplistic and misses the point of why Riley County and Manhattan want to stay in the 2nd. Although it is an advantage to have the more senior member of the congressional delegation represent the community to help secure the NBAF facility. Their is a statutory requirement that "community of interest" MUST be considered. And with NBAF being critical to the Animal Health Corridor, that heads east, and the economic vitality of the entire state, to ignore this shows his lack of actually researching the expressed rationale of why they want to stay in the 2nd. The case that has been made in all the testimony they have given surrounds this "community of interest" rationale. There has never been any testimony given for what Mr. Rothschild lists as their primary reason. Keeping Riley County and Manhattan in the 2nd to help secure NBAF funding wil be good for ALL Kansans. Moving Riley to the 1st will simply be the "easy" solution. But it will ignore logic and common sense.

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hujiko 1 year, 10 months ago

I'd love to see a picture of this map -- gerrymandered maps make me ill.

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Slowponder 1 year, 10 months ago

isle? you mean aisle, don't you?

Judge Vratil and Judge Lungstrum were both nominated by President George Herbert Walker Bush and the Senate, which was controlled by the Democrats, gave its advice and consent to both nominations. Judge Mary Beck Briscoe was nominated by President Bill Clinton and the Senate, which was then controlled by the Republicans, gave its advice and consent to her nomination.

Previously, Judge Vratil was a municipal judge in Prairie Village and a partner with Lathrop & Norquist. Judge Lungstrum was a partner in the law firm, Stevens Brand, and Judge Briscoe, was an Assistant US Attorney in Topeka, and an appellate Judge on the Kansas Court of Appeals, nominated by Gov. John Carlin. Currently, Judge Briscoe is the Chief Judge of the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver.

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mikekt 1 year, 11 months ago

Or maybe the fix is in, on the Judges,... already?! That would be a convenient way to side step the responsibility of turning things upside down while getting a sure outcome....maybe? How did they ( the Judges ) get there & whom do they owe for their jobs, from either side of the isle? Fair Question! Maybe they owe the Wicked Witch Of The West or those Nasty Flying Monkeys?... OH NO!!! I bet somebody in journalism, somewhere, knows?! Why do i ask? Because "inquiring minds want to know" &.... the National Enquirer is not going to cover this one! Ha,Ha,Ha.

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mikekt 1 year, 11 months ago

Well, i've got my crystal ball out ( shades of "Cedar Crest Sams' Re-Publican Seances"-but i'm not holding hands.... with anyone!!! ) and i'm gazing into a future full of "do-next-to-nothing-intelligent-legislators" crying their eyes out on TV & in The Print Press about those "Activist Judges", who's ideas don't sit well with their political districting feng shui, fung shway; or however the properly picky folks of Lawrence & elsewhere do spell it,... correctly?! We ought to get Proctor & Gamble to sponsor Topeka! It's all quite the political soap opera up there! What kind of name or names would you give to the Topeka Show? How about "Going To Hell & Broke, In A Hand Basket?", "A Crown Of Thorns For The Poor?" or"We're Just Having A Manic Episode In Topeka & We Could Really Care Less!... Hello!"? Quick! Somebody tell the Wicked Witch Of The West & Those Flying Monkeys that they need to step up their Games if they are to continue to be the true representatives of all that is Evil in Kansas/Oz!

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