TOPEKA, Kan. — Who you’re able to vote for could be changing in Kansas.
Legislative leaders are starting the long process of determining how districts should be reshaped because of population shifts. A key factor has been the increase of people in the Kansas City area, and the decrease in western Kansas.
The most recent census data shows the state grew by more 84,762 people in the last decade.
Lawmakers have to decide the shape for all 165 legislators, 10 state board of education members and four Congressional seats.
On Monday, legislative leaders started creating a plan of action on how they want to eventually draw new maps. But some said it’s not an easy process.
“This is like messing with somebody’s bank account. Everybody’s a little touchy when you’re messing with your own district,” Senate President Ty Masterson said. “That’s the goal of representative government, to have each one of those individuals as close to equal representation as possible.”
Some Democrats are worried Republicans will create districts to unfairly favor the GOP.
Last year, then-Senate President Susan Wagle said what many Democrats don’t want to see happen.
“I guarantee you, we can draw four Republican Congressional maps,” Wagle said in September at a Wichita Pachyderm Club. Currently, Republicans hold three seats, while one is held by a Democrat.
House Minority Leader Tom Sawyer said that comment concerned him.
“The Congressional one has always been the one that’s the toughest, and I do worry about that. At least the person that said that is gone, but when they have that goal in mind, that’s pretty scary to start off with that,” Sawyer said.
Wagle didn’t seek reelection in 2020.
Masterson, the man that took over the position from Wagle, said his goal is different than the previous senate president’s.
“Every human has a natural bias, and it’s not on either side of the aisle, it’s on both sides of the aisle. Each side would like to see itself get stronger, but that’s not this process,” Masterson said. “We’re going to bring in the data and try to get as close as we can to one person one vote.”
In the coming months, multiple public meetings will be held in each Congressional district.
“We want to keep community of interest in mind as we do this. We want to make sure we don’t accidentally divide things that are important in a particular area that people think should be in the same district,” Sawyer said.
Proposals will run through the legislature as bills next year. That means they can be vetoed by the governor, and possibly overridden. If plans aren’t passed, redistricting could go to the courts for them to draw, like what happened in 2012.