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


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.


Jonathan Becker 4 years, 4 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.

hujiko 4 years, 4 months ago

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

cleanview 4 years, 4 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.

deec 4 years, 4 months ago

A highway and alleged future development is not a community of interest. Keeping a town in the district of the senior politician is not a parameter that is to be considered, according to the rules that are supposed to govern redistricting.

Putting the lab in the center of the nation is a bad idea. There is no such thing as a 100% secure building, and eventually some icky stuff is going to escape and devastate the food supply.

optimist 4 years, 3 months ago

And what, because it was in New York it didn't pose a threat to the food supply. Much like the fools on the east coast who think "fly over country" is full of country bumpkins some of us in the midwest fail to realize they aren't all city slickers. There is plenty of agrigulture along the east coast in states like NJ, NY and PA. That lab was no less a threat there than it is in the midwest. I assume they will take the opportunity to build in more safeguards and a higher level of security.

deec 4 years, 3 months ago

Prevailing winds, on an island off the coast, and no tornadoes make the current location safer than Ks.

Doug_Mild 4 years, 4 months ago

Many of the proposals I have seen that keep Manhattan in the 2nd District end up splitting Lawrence in half. How can logic and common sense decide that Manhattan and Topeka have more in common than do east and west Lawrence? Besides, how funny would it be for our government-hating Republican legislature to gerrymander our Congressional Districts in order to help secure money from pointy-headed Washington bureaucrats? If Kansans are going to elect Congressional representatives who want to shrink government at all costs, then they shouldn't be shocked to discover their favorite tax-suported project is losing funding.

cleanview 4 years, 3 months ago

Actually take a look at the two maps that the Manhattan folks submitted. Neither of them split any other city. They are easy to find, they are the first two maps on the state's redistricting website. One of them provides for the community of interest of most of the educational institutions (KSU, KU, Emporia, Pittsburg and Washburn in addition to other smaller institutions.) The second one looks to emphasize the military community of interest with Ft. Riley and Ft. Leavenworth. And both do maintain the economic community of interest that the animal health corridor will provide to the ENTIRE STATE - whether you agree with it or not. Again, please check the facts and, for most of you posting, try not to let petty insults continue to drive your thinking.

deec 4 years, 3 months ago

Communities are communities of interest. Highways aren't. Calling a road a community of interest is marketing nonsense. Building a poison factory in Manhattan will have no economic stimulus effect on towns down the highway.

cleanview 4 years, 3 months ago

By stating that Manhattan has an interest to the east it is obviously NOT referring to the highway. But rather those cities that lie along that highway corridor. You might check with the Topeka and Lawrence and Kansas City area Chambers of Commerce before you state that it will have no effect. You might have heard of another group of communities that benefitted from a certain industry expanding in that region - Silicon Valley! Although we may not get to that level. Wouldn't it benefit ALL the taxpayers of the state if we were to even approach that kind of economic boom. It appears to me that your obvious bias against NBAF is clouding your view.

tomatogrower 4 years, 4 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?

JackMcKee 4 years, 4 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.

yourworstnightmare 4 years, 4 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.

OzD 4 years, 4 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.

pace 4 years, 4 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.

yourworstnightmare 4 years, 4 months ago

My guess is that their children had a pretty nice, comfortable life due to New Deal and farm programs and have forgotten the lessons of the Great Depression.

It is the downside of prosperity. Those who enjoy it tend to ignore how they got their.

yourworstnightmare 4 years, 4 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.

Carol Bowen 4 years, 4 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.

Alex Parker 4 years, 4 months ago

The resolution wasn't high enough; it wouldn't have looked right in print.

Alex Parker Digital Editor

brewmaster 4 years, 4 months ago

Joseph McCathy would be so proud of Kansas Republicans.

JayhawkFan1985 4 years, 4 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.

Alyosha 4 years, 4 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.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 4 years, 4 months ago

"Good serious nonpartisan attempt"

But in today's Republican land, especially the hard right version, nonpartisan is synonymous with partisan-- "either you're with us, or agin us."

verity 4 years, 4 months ago

"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."

I've got nothing to add.

mdfraz 4 years, 4 months ago

So few people remember that WE are the government and we get that which we deserve. We focus too much on the the rights we think we have (so many don't really recognize the rights we do have and claim rights that we don't) and ignore the responsibilities that are incumbent upon us as citizens.

Well done, sir/ma'am.

Centerville 4 years, 4 months ago

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

JayhawkFan1985 4 years, 4 months ago

Or if the house of reps cared more about Kansas than they do ideology.

Uhlrick_Hetfield_III 4 years, 4 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.

GatewayLSAT 4 years, 3 months ago

A convincing argument from the "Two Wrongs Make A Right" camp.

Alyosha 4 years, 4 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.

Centerville 4 years, 4 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.

verity 4 years, 4 months ago

Wow, such enlightened reasoning. The map is bad because, in your mind, the KDP must be behind it even though you have absolutely no proof. Wow, just wow.

Or we could judge the map on it's merits, rather than who made it.

GatewayLSAT 4 years, 3 months ago

I think the case against merits was well-stated and a slam dunk - reading otherwise requires a truly impressive lack of subjectivity. Congratulations on closing your mind to such an extent!

optimist 4 years, 4 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.

tomatogrower 4 years, 3 months ago

Yes, but the legislature had to protect us from Sharia law and the big bad UN.

JackMcKee 4 years, 3 months ago

and none too soon. We really dodged a bullet on those two.

Nikonman 4 years, 3 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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