Residents can share their thoughts on new Douglas County Commission districts at Dec. 1 town hall
photo by: Journal-World/File Photo
Community members will have the opportunity to hear more about the process of moving from three Douglas County Commission districts to five — and to weigh in on what those new districts should look like — during a town hall meeting at the beginning of December.
The meeting is set for 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 1, in Flory Meeting Hall on the Douglas County Fairgrounds, 2120 Harper St. Douglas County Clerk Jamie Shew will give a presentation on the process, followed by round-table discussions among meeting attendees.
Douglas County voters comfortably approved a ballot measure to expand the commission in the recent Nov. 8 general election. According to the unofficial results prior to canvassing, there were 26,687 votes in favor of the ballot measure, or nearly 61% of the vote. Ahead of the election, supporters touted an expanded commission as an opportunity for broader representation for people outside of Lawrence.
The Douglas County Commission will need to adopt a resolution outlining the new commission districts by Jan. 1, 2023, and all five districts need to be contiguous and have the same population size.
As Shew told the Journal-World last month, those stipulations mean that an expanded commission doesn’t necessarily guarantee broader representation. Roughly 85% of the county’s population lives in Lawrence, and Shew said that would make it mathematically impossible to draw a map including something like three completely rural districts and two located entirely within Lawrence, for example.
However, Shew said it would be possible to draw a map that looks something like the spokes of a wheel, with commission districts extending out from Lawrence to take in communities like Eudora and Baldwin City. But no sample maps have been shared with the public yet, which Shew said was to avoid confusing folks and making them think they were voting on a specific map instead of the number of districts.
After the commission adopts a resolution outlining the new districts, Gov. Laura Kelly will either declare an election for the new districts at the next general election or call for a special election to be held between 75 and 90 days from the date of the board’s resolution. Kelly will be required to act on the resolution within five days of its adoption.