Kansans will vote in November on a constitutional amendment to do away with census adjustments that are used in the process of drawing electoral district boundaries. Legislative and State Board of Education districts would be drawn using the same numbers as Congressional districts.
Approving the amendment would end the state’s unique practice of tweaking the U.S. Census by asking every resident college student and military member where they want to be counted.
Like all states, Kansas must comply with constitutional equal population requirements when drawing the boundaries of its legislative districts. Most states use the U.S. Census data.
Kansas adjusts the data before the lines are drawn. Under Article 10, Section 1, on the Constitution, nonresident military personnel and nonresident students attending Kansas colleges and universities are not counted. In addition, military personnel and students who are residents of the state are counted in the districts of their permanent residence rather than where they are stationed or attending school.
Kansas Secretary of State Scott Schwab supports the amendment, which is says would end “a burdensome, antiquated and expensive mandate.”
Earlier this year, Schwab told the Senate Ethics, Elections and Local Government Committee that under the current law, the state will spend an estimated $834,000 to adjust the 2020 U.S. Census figures to prepare for redrawing political boundaries. He said the state will hire a private consultant to contact all military personnel and students and ask them about their permanent residencies.
In addition to the cost, Schwab said continuing the practice would delay the redistricting process by three to six months.
“Kansas is the only state in the nation that continues to adjust census numbers,” Schwab said. “I think this provision of the constitution is a waste.”
The state has 40 Senate districts, 125 House districts and 10 Board of Education Districts.
The ballot question
The question before voters is called the “Kansas Eliminate Revision of Census Population Amendment,” and was passed this year with a bipartisan supermajority, which is needed to put an amendment on the ballot. The majority of votes in the Nov. 5 election will decide its fate.
The ballot title reads as follows:
“The purpose of this amendment is to eliminate the adjustment of census taken by the United States census bureau regarding nonresident military personnel and nonresident students when reapportioning the Kansas senate and house of representatives.
“A vote for this proposition would eliminate the adjustment of census taken by the United States census bureau regarding nonresident military personnel and nonresident students when reapportioning the Kansas senate and house of representatives.
“A vote against this proposition would continue in effect the requirement for the adjustment of census taken by the United States census bureau regarding nonresident military personnel and nonresident students when reapportioning the Kansas senate and house of representatives.”
Supporters add that the amendment, would save hundreds of hours of state workers' time and it would have minimal impact. In the 2010 adjustment, about 13,000 people out of the 2.9 million population were affected.
According to a document prepared by Mary Galligan for the National Conference of State Legislatures in 2010, recalculating the population to meet the constitutional mandate in 2000 cost $375,000. Public and private colleges and universities and military officers received 200,000 forms provided by the Secretary of State.
Total population, voting-age population and race and ethnic characteristics were all recalculated.
The 2000 adjustment caused the greatest net gain in population (2,569) in Johnson County and the greatest net loss in Riley County (13,246), home to Kansas State University and Fort Riley.
Legislation was introduced to amend the constitution in 2009 to repeal the adjustment, but the resolution was not heard or acted upon during the 2009 session.
The deadline to register to vote in the Nov. 5 election is Oct. 15. Advance voting will begin on Oct. 16.