Kansans should focus on geography, culture and politics in redistribution forums, advocates say
TOPEKA – While guidelines for testimony and the redistribution process remain in limbo, Fair Card advocates in Kansas are advising residents to look at past executives when addressing lawmakers at upcoming town halls.
The House and Senate committees on the redistribution are expected to hold four town halls starting Nov. 22, but details remain scarce on what lawmakers want to hear from attendees. All committee members will attend virtually.
The Kansans can visit one of the various sites set up in cities across the state or join lawmakers online to testify virtually. While cities are known, the precise locations where people can testify in person are unknown, as is the time allotted per person.
As the next round of meetings approaches, concerns about the process over the course of the first round of town halls in August seem to stay.
“We have said on several occasions that this has not been the most transparent process since the start of this redistribution process,” said Michael Poppa, executive director of the Mainstream Coalition. âWe’ll know (the locations) when they decide to give it to us, but we can tell you that weâ¦ and partner organizations will be reaching out to the community at large to share that information with them. “
Representatives from several other groups including the Kansas Fair Maps Coalition joined Poppa on Monday to provide Kansans with a brief overview of the setting and expectations for these upcoming town halls. They also discussed possible legal actions that could arise from the redistribution process and the future of Kansas’ 3rd Congressional District, currently held by United States Democratic Representative Sharice Davids.
All second round meetings will be held from 5:30 pm to 7:30 pm Town halls will continue as scheduled, despite the Legislative Assembly meeting for a special session beginning November 22.
Kansans can provide in-person testimony for the 2nd District on November 22 at Atchison, Ottawa, Independence, or on the Indian reservations; the 1st District on November 23 at Emporia, Great Bend, Liberal or McPherson; the 4th arrondissement on November 29 in Newton or El Dorado; and the 3rd District on November 30 at Bonner Springs or Stilwell.
Those who wish to testify must submit written and oral testimony to the Kansas Department of Legislative Research at least 24 hours before the meeting they wish to attend.
Troy Spain, from the Kansas Civic Engagement Table, shared three areas of particular interest in the legislature that those who wish to testify should keep in mind.
“First, the geographical similarity,” said Spain. “They are going to take into account cultural and ethnic boundaries and they are going to look at political concerns.”
The GOP-controlled legislature should redraw the boundaries of the 3rd arrondissement to give the Republicans an advantage. The district contains two of the most populous counties in the state – Johnson and Wyandotte – as well as part of Miami County.
Mary Galligan, of the League of Women Voters of Kansas, said new census data indicated that counties would exceed the ideal population for congressional districts and would need to be partially divided for approval by the Kansas Supreme Court.
âThere is virtually no allowable deviation from the ideal size for the Congressional District and for Legislative Districts. The rule of thumb is plus or minus 5%, âGalligan said. “Part of one of these counties or potentially one of the counties is going to have to be split up to keep this population as it should be.”
In Kansas, the authorized population for a congressional district is 734,470. According to the 2020 census, Johnson County is home to 609,863 people and Wyandotte County is home to 169,245 people.
Legislative constituencies vary. In the Kansas House districts, the population can range from 22,329 to 24,679. In the Senate, there may be a population of 69,775 to 77,119.
If the maps drawn by the Legislative Committee do not meet these requirements, they are unlikely to receive Kansas court approval. The state Supreme Court may also be involved if there are concerns about gerrymandering, if a lawsuit is filed, or if the panel does not submit cards, said Sharon Brett, chief legal officer for American Civil Liberties. Union of Kansas.
“If there is a stalemate in the Legislature like what happened 10 years ago, where no map has been drawn and passed, a panel of three district court judges will be appointed to decide basically what the map should be like, âBrett said.