“Significant Population Shifts” at Root of Kansas Redistricting, Judges Mull Through Maps and Motives
May 29, 2012

A three judge panel in federal court heard about how dramatic growth in the Kansas City area, and equally dramatic drops in the population of southeast and western Kansas posed problems for lawmakers in redrawing the political lines of the state. In the end, snarled by statehouse politics, lawmakers could not finish the job. The three judges took over the task today.
“Frankly, we shouldn’t have to be in court, but the legislature didn’t take care of thief business”, say Lawrence Democrat Paul Davis at the hearing.
The judges learned that the Kansas City metro, Johnson County in particular, saw a 7% increase in population the last census. At the same time the population in western Kansas dropped 7%. In southeast Kansas the drop was 9%.
Those swings prompted proposed
maps that had the west Kansas First District sweeping from the Missouri line to the Colorado border. There was much talk about proposed changes to the metro’s 3rd District. One map had the third contracting to the west, but picking up portions Of Miami County. Miami had once been part of the KS-3.
Another option had part of Leavenworth County joining the KS-3. House Speaker Mike O’ Neal says the Johnson County area is growing so fast it may have it’s own congressional district in 10 years.
O’Neal offered a plan in the legislature that would have separated Johnson County from Wyandotte County. That was shot down quickly.
The judges also heard about the political stand off that landed the case in federal court.
Traditionally, Kansas House members draw it’s chamber map and the Senate approves it. The same is true with the Senate map On the House side. That did not happen this session.
Democrat Davis, the House Minority Leader, said the House Republican Leadership “meddled” in the Senate plan.
The Chairman of the Senate Redistricting Committee, Johnson County Sen Tim Owns says they had a plan that the Senate approved. The House, however, refused it.
Davis’ own political situation is part if the Redistricting controversy. His own district was redrawn to accept a primary challenge by House Member Greg Smith.
He also spoke of A Republican Redistricting proposal he called “as gerrymandered as you can get”.
He said one GOP state Senate map was aimed alley at ousting top Democrats. Owens is a Republican.
The hearing produced some odd moments. First of all, the desks in front of the bar were filled with more than 30 lawyers. Each representing one if the parties of the case.
House Speaker O’Neal, an attorney, represented himself. At one time, after making his points of law before the judges, he then walked over to the witness chair and took a seat. That was because he was about to be “cross examined” by other attorneys on the case. The three judges will have to work quickly to settle the lines.
The deadline for candidate filing in all Kansas races is less than two weeks away.