Ten years later, Kansas redistricting is still broken

Kansas has an archaic system in which state legislators draw the maps with no oversight except the Governor's veto.

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Opinion

June 25, 2021 - 11:38 AM

It is almost time to redistrict Kansas. This means using 2020 Census data to create new districts for the Kansas House, Kansas Senate, and U.S. Congress. Ten years ago, the process was a mess. Unfortunately, no reforms were put in place afterwards.  The detailed Census data will be ready later this year — but will lawmakers be ready?

In 2012, Kansas won the dubious distinction of being the last state in the U.S. to complete its Congressional districts. Despite having only four to draw, the Kansas Legislature could not agree on a map, forcing the federal courts to intervene and draw the districts themselves. By contrast, California’s nonpartisan citizens commissions had already completed their first set of districts drawn under a new system championed by former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger — 53 U.S. House Districts, plus the ones for both houses of the state General Assembly.

What was the problem here? First, Kansas has an archaic system in which the state legislature draws the maps with no oversight except the Governor’s veto. Not only do they draw the Congressional districts, they also draw the ones for the statehouse itself — a classic “fox guarding the chickenhouse” scenario. Kansas’ Legislature is only in session for about four months per year (January-April) meaning that this will require either a special session or doing it at the last minute. By early 2022, many other states will have already finalized their districts.

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