TOPEKA — The Kansas Legislature sent to Gov. Laura Kelly a bundled bill Wednesday containing redistricting maps for the House, Senate and state Board of Education.
Senate and House maps were heavily vetted by respective chambers before adopted separately by wide margins. Objections were raised to final adjustments to the Board of Education map, which is based on the 40 Senate district boundaries.
The Senate approved Senate Bill 563 on a vote of 29-11, while the House adopted the same piece of legislation 83-40. Kelly could veto the bill, but an override would be the likely result. In addition, litigation could emerge challenging constitutionality of any of these maps. The Legislature’s map of the four congressional districts has attracted several pending lawsuits.
Republicans in the House and Senate didn’t launch an aggressive defense of the three maps before the votes were counted, given that the bill was expected to pass by a comfortable margin.
“There’s not any reason to get into a lengthy discussion,” said Sen. Rick Wilborn, the McPherson Republican who chaired the Senate Redistricting Committee.
House Minority Leader Tom Sawyer, a Wichita Democrat, said the Board of Education map violated redistricting guidelines setting up potential showdowns between two incumbent Democrats in eastern Kansas and two incumbent Republicans in central Kansas.
“It sends an appalling message to those that want to serve with our state,” said Rep. Tom Burroughs, a Kansas City, Kansas, Democrat who nevertheless voted for the bill.
In eastern Kansas, Democrat Ann Mah of Topeka and Democrat Janet Waugh of Kansas City would be forced to compete for the same seat. Waugh isn’t expected to seek re-election in November. Mah said she didn’t plan to run again in 2024.
Republican Deena Horst of Salina and Republican Ben Jones of Sterling would go head to head in two years for a board seat representing central Kansas. Jones faces re-election in November, but Horst’s four-year term would be up in 2024. Every two years, five state Board of Education members face re-election.
Democrats in the House and Senate also questioned the decision by mapmakers to fracture Wyandotte County among three of the 10 Board of Education districts.
“You’ve take the smallest county in the state of Kansas — Wyandotte County — and spread it out between three state Board of Education positions. I see no positive in that type of splitting,” said Sen. Pat Pettey, a Democrat from Kansas City, Kansas.
The Legislature and governor in Kansas are responsible for redrawing House, Senate and Board of Education boundaries every decade based on population shifts documented in the U.S. Census. Each of the 125 House districts will have close to 23,500 residents. Each of the 40 Senate districts would have approximately 73,500 people. The 10 Board of Education districts would serve 293,000 people.
Each of the approved maps and alternative maps can be viewed online on the website of the Kansas Legislative Research Department.
The Senate map was named “Liberty 3” and the House map ended up with the name “Free State 3F.” The Board of Education map, which required each member to serve four Senate districts, was designated as “Apple 7” and ties into boundaries established by “Liberty 3.”
Concordia Republican Sen. Elaine Bowers said she supported the Senate and state Board of Education boundaries. She objected to how the House map constructed districts in her home area of Cloud County.
“I believe there were better ways to draw those boundaries that would have been easier to understand for voters to understand,” she said. “However, in spite of those concerns, I respect the process and I vote ‘yes.’”
Sen. Tom Holland, D-Baldwin City, said the Senate map separated communities of interest that had developed during the past decade in his district among Tonganoxie, south Lawrence, Eudora and Baldwin City.
“The proposed 19th District boundaries attempt to establish a community of interest between east Topeka and north Lawrence. Such a community does not exist,” said Holland, who voiced similar objections with the House and Board of Education maps.
Kansas Reflector is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Kansas Reflector maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Sherman Smith for questions: firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Kansas Reflector on Facebook and Twitter.
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The Lawrence Times reposts many, but not all, stories from the Kansas Reflector. Read more of their coverage here. We also frequently repost stories from the Kansas News Service. Read more of their coverage here.