Lawmakers considering plans to redraw Kansas’ congressional lines

Public hearings started Thursday at the Kansas Statehouse on redistricting.
Published: Jan. 20, 2022 at 6:35 PM CST
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - Kansas lawmakers are looking at five plans to redraw the state’s congressional lines. Most of the concern with that deals with how those lines will be shifting into the Third Congressional District covering Johnson and Wyandotte counties. Currently, Congresswoman Sharice Davis, a Democrat, represents that district.

“We want to get the idea out in the open so we can hear what people have to say, so then we can move forward in the process,” House Redistricting Committee Chair Rep. Chris Croft said of the redrawing effort.

The main proposal from Republican leadership is call Ad Astra. That proposal splits Wyandotte County between the second and third congressional districts. Nearly all of the spoken testimony Thursday at the state capitol was from people concerned with that proposal. One speaker said concerns include the dilution of the minority vote. Another pointed out that Wyandotte County is the only county in Kansas with a city-county consolidation government entity.

The Republican proposal to redraw the state’s congressional lines also cuts the city of Lawrence -- home to the University of Kansas -- into the First Congressional District. The representative for that, Democrat Barbara Ballard, area says it’s concerning to move that metro area into a rural and agricultural district.

“It doesn’t make any sense at all because we do not share in that connectedness,” she said. “Most of our people go to Kansas City or Topeka. They commute and that’s what they work with.”

Some of the speakers used the word “gerrymandering” when discussing the Ad Astra proposal.

Representing the Voter Rights Network of Wyandotte County, Mike Taylor told lawmakers the plan is “a classic example of gerrymandering.”

While not speaking to some of the specific concerns, Croft said those items will be evaluated in this process.

“I’m sitting back, I’m looking at it. It is part of those decision criteria,” he said. “We’ll look at all of it as decision criteria as we move forward.”

The League of Women Voters developed the Blue Stem Map, growing the First Congressional District to encompass most of the state’s rural counties while keeping the third district largely intact.

“Mae the three metropolitan-area-dominated districts, 2, 3 and 4 , as compact as possible and recognize the differences between the growth areas of the state and those areas that are losing population,” said Cille King with the League of Women Voters of Kansas.

The Blue Stem Map would also change the territory of Kansas’ Fourth Congressional District by adding Hutchinson. That map and two others would expand the First Congressional District, “The Big First,” from the Missouri to Colorado borders.

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