2021 Kansas Redistricting Tour discusses process, hears from public at Garden City stop

Meghan Flynn
Garden City Telegram
Sen. Rick Wilborn, R-McPherson, chairman of the Kansas Redistricting Committee, conducts a listening tour session Tuesday at Garden City Community College's Endowment Room.

The 2021 Kansas Redistricting Listening Tour stopped in Garden City Tuesday. 

Sen. Rick Wilborn, R-McPherson, chair of the Redistricting Committee, said purpose of the tour is to hear for the public on their community and is one step in the state's redistricting process. 

"What you have to say is very important to all of us," he said. "We (want to) hear from you about what is important to you about your area that should be considered as we move through this process."

Jordan Millholland, senior research analyst with the Kansas Legislative Research Department, a non-partisan entity helps develop the new districts, and lead analyst on the redistricting team, said there are five phases to the redistricting program. 

Phase 1 is the block boundary suggestion project. 

Phase 2 is the voting district project where counties submit maps and updates on the line for the precincts in their local areas.  

Phase 3 is delivery of census data, which is currently being waited on. 

Phase 4 is confirmation of congressional and legislative district boundaries. 

Phase 5 is feedback. 

In the 2020 Census Kansas had a population of 2,937,880 people, Millholland said. Kansas grew by 84,662 people and did not gain or lose a congressional seat. Redistricting for Congress, the Kansas House, Kansas Senate and the Kansas Board of Education Districts maps will be based on these numbers.

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Redistricting is a legislative process, Millholland said. 

"Maps are drawn and then they are turned into bill language and then those bills are subject to the same process as any other bill," he said. "It goes through committee hearings, testimonies received on these maps in their bill form and then they're also subject to amendments."

Like any other bill the governor can either sign, veto or allow the bill to come along without a signature, then the Supreme Court must review and approve the map, Millholland said. 

Once the maps are approved by the House and Senate they are published in a register and then the Attorney General is required to petition the court to determine the validity, Millholland said. The Supreme Court then has 30 days from filing to object. 

"If the maps are considered valid by the Supreme Court the process is complete until the next segment," he said. "If the maps are invalid, they must be redrawn by the legislature ... Basically, the process would repeat until the court determines the maps submitted are valid."

Martha Terhaar, southwest advocate for Kansas Appleseed Center for Law and Justice, a non-profit, non-partisan organization who believes redistricting should be unbiased and non-partisan spoke during the listening tour stop. 

Southwest Kansas is diverse, full of people with diverse backgrounds and demographics, Terhaar said. Equal representation for communities of color matter and collaboration is needed to ensure each community is represented in the redistricting process.

To do that, materials need to be available in Spanish and other languages and meetings have to be held at times accessible to a working person, Terhaar said.

"Garden City is a community full of working-class individuals who deserve to have a time where they can attend and also provide their public comment," she said. "Let's make this process as transparent and accessible as possible."

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Terhaar also urges the committee to listen to as many people as they can and to seriously consider the input given, especially from those who have life experiences different than their own.

"We are all Kansans, so let's make sure every vote has equal power," she said. 

Katie Eisenhouer, executive director of the Scott County Development Committee, said the committee need to recognize that western Kansas is a vital economic driver for the state, particularly with agriculture, and the GDP that comes from the area is significant. 

"If there's any way that the populous can somehow be recognized as a factor," she said. "Keep the economic impact also in mind, I think that would bode well for western Kansas. It's an area that is known for losing population, but we're trying our hardest to grow this areas and we need your help to do so."

After the meeting Lona DuVall, president/CEO of the Finney County Economic Development Corporation, said the redistricting process is always a little overwhelming because it is done every 10 years, but it's important and the public needs the opportunities, like the listening session, to weigh in on the process. 

"We are a growing, thriving region of the state and we have to keep people reminded of that," she said. "When we are talking about representation in the legislature ... these seats are very important and it's important that we have enough representatives to truly show the value of the western half of the state of Kansas."

If anyone wants to provide public comment, send comments to redistricting@klrd.ks.gov.