OVERLAND PARK, Kan. — Ten years later, could Kansas have another redistricting mess? Some say yes, but others believe even with the time constraints they will be able to make it work.
Johnson County residents filled the Matt Ross Community Center on Thursday to give testimony to the 2021 House and Senate Redistricting Committee. More than 50 people signed up to have their voice heard.
In 2011, Kansas legislators could not get the redistricting done, but even with the pandemic delaying data, this time they are hopeful the lines will be fairly drawn.
“You should not be able to choose your voters. We should be able to choose you,” one resident said.
“While it might be tempting to draw districts to serve a partisan purpose I would urge you not to do that. We are in what is the most partisan political atmosphere of my lifetime, and as you can see – it’s not a short lifetime,” another resident said.
They have reason for concern. Districts are drawn based on census data, and Johnson County grew by 12% over the past decade. In 2011, the redistricting committee had four months worth of town halls, and were never able to draw lines themselves. In 2012, a federal court had to do it for them.
“It’s an incremental step to get to the end. So, judge the process at the end. That’s why we said our goal is to be transparent, and public access,” Republican Representative and House Committee Chair, Chris Croft said.
“I know that they have it in them to really work together with all legislators and make sure that this is a collaborative, open and transparent process where politicians for once can behave like adults and can get this done,” Democratic Representative and House Committee Member, Stephanie Clayton said.
This year, all the town halls are crammed into one week. Census data was released nearly four months late due to pandemic delays. Making some concerned lawmakers won’t be able to draw the lines fairly, or like last time — not at all.
“Drawing districts that divide people with common interests so they have no voice will only exacerbate that partisan divide. In order to maintain a government of the people the people must feel their voices are heard. Please don’t take that away,” one resident said.
“Overland Park, Kansas City, and Olathe comprise the three of the five largest cities in the state. And one seventy five minute town hall in each county is woefully inadequate. Representation matters,” another resident said.
After the meeting in Overland Park the committee met with residents in Wyandotte County. If you would like to attend a meeting there are two left in the outer metro area:
— Leavenworth: Friday, August 13 at 9:00 a.m. to 10:15 p.m. at the Riverfront Community Center’s Riverview Room at 123 S. Esplanade Street, Leavenworth, KS. 66048
— Lawrence: Friday, August 13 at 1:30 p.m. to 2:45 p.m. at the University of Kansas Capitol Federal Hall in Room 1111 at 1654 Naismith Drive, Lawrence, KS. 66405.