Divide and conquer might be the rule of the day as efforts continue to redraw Kansas congressional districts.
The most recent version — this is at least the fourth — of the proposed “deep purple” districting map, crafted by State Rep. Clay Aurand, R-Belleville, might show why the chasm between rural and urban areas of the state are so vast.
Kansas’ 2,870,000 population needs to be divided into four fairly evenly divided districts. Since the state’s population largely is in a few urban areas — namely Johnson, Sedgwick and Shawnee counties, as well as Kansas’ two largest college communities in Douglas and Riley counties — carving out reasonable districts is easier said than done. With 77 of Kansas’ 105 counties losing population while the state’s population — especially Northeastern Kansas — continues to grow, the shift of population prompts an inevitable shift in congressional districts too.
Each district in the new configuration achieves the 713,280-person goal, as well as accomplishing the Republican leadership’s secondary goal of diluting Democrats’ strength. Previous maps attempted to split Kansas City and Topeka. Both of those attempts failed. This one should too.
It’s important to keep communities of interest together. Lawrence and Douglas County — the state’s most politically liberal area — might have less in common with other areas of the state, but its college presence aligns it more with other college towns or urban areas than it does with the multitude of counties in Western Kansas comprising the state’s 1st District.
Media reports suggest a compromise proposal is in the works and might be voted on when lawmakers reconvene next week. That’s good news.
The best redistricting plan isn’t on the table yet. It will get rid of the politics and focus more on the areas’ similarities. Pairing like communities makes the most sense for the long-term, and hopefully those factors will be apparent in the next redistricting map iteration.
— Jeanny Sharp, editor and publisher