Every 10 years, the U.S. government completes a census and, after that, each U.S. state redraws its electoral districts. Kansas and other states must comply with constitutional equal population requirements.
In 2002 and 2012, the Kansas Legislature was involved in redistricting battles. In 2012, the Legislature could not agree on a plan, so a federal district court drew the congressional district maps.
It looks like the next map could also be a battleground. This month, Kansas Senate President Susan Wagle was seen on a video saying Republicans will have more control if they strategically add more Republican neighborhoods to certain districts when the new lines are drawn.
“I guarantee you, we can draw four Republican district maps,” she said.
Wagle later said the video was edited to take her words out of context because the Democrats would do the same thing – create a partisan map – if they controlled the Senate.
Governor Laura Kelly has made a sensible suggestion, that a nonpartisan commission should oversee redistricting. It is worth considering.
Maps should create voting districts of approximately equal numbers of voters, making each area fairly represented. It is not fair if the maps are gerrymandered in an attempt to manipulate the outcome of elections.
The Republican party has the majority of Kansas votes but not all of them. Our Legislature still has a two-party system and that means the majority still has to negotiate and often that leads to decisions that are more balanced and better reflect the wishes of the state as a whole. The majority still has more power, but it is not in the power of dictators.
A super-majority would wield even greater power and if that is what Kansans want then everyone should vote the same way. But a super-majority created by partisan voter suppression and gerrymandering is sneaky, unethical cheating. It frees the legislature from considering the popular will of the people it serves.
The maps should be fair and straight-forward, representing balanced areas without seeking to undermine the benefits of a two-party system.