TOPEKA — The Senate Redistricting Committee plans to introduce maps for new Senate districts next week, while awaiting outcome of two lawsuits challenging the legality of a new congressional map.
Committee members met briefly Wednesday in preparation for the unveiling of Senate map proposals. The new maps will be restricted to a 5% deviation from existing boundaries for the 40 Senate seats. Any maps from the public will require a legislative sponsor.
“I just wanted to kind of get everybody together to get the ball rolling,” said Sen. Rick Wilborn, a McPherson Republican who chairs the committee. “There’s no magic map out there yet, and so we’ll be talking about that among ourselves.”
Republicans in both the Senate and House fast-tracked a new congressional map early in the session that divides the Kansas City metro in an attempt to make it more difficult for Democratic U.S. Rep. Sharice Davids to get re-elected. The Legislature on a party-line vote overrode Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly’s veto of the map.
On Monday, the American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas and Loud Loud filed separate lawsuits in Wyandotte County District Court arguing the congressional map is gerrymandered to dilute the voting power of Democrats and communities of color.
Senate President Ty Masterson said he delayed a planned hearing earlier this week regarding judicial appointments because he wanted to avoid the appearance that the hearing was connected to the lawsuits.
“It was coincidental timing and not in any way meant to be any kind of shot across the bow,” Masterson said.
Masterson said he plans to move forward with a proposed constitutional amendment to install legislative oversight of the governor’s appointments to the Kansas Supreme Court — “just to see if there’s an appetite for it,” he said.
Aileen Berquist, of the ACLU of Kansas, said she is interested in whether lawmakers give consideration to people who come to speak about the redistricting of Senate seats. Many people spoke in opposition to the GOP-drawn congressional map, she said, and their concerns were not taken into account.
“A lot of very engaged community members who maybe knew nothing about redistricting before now care about this and see how it interacts with their voting rights and their ability to have their voices heard,” Berquist said.
The hope for redistricting of legislative seats: “Listen to the communities of interest, the people who are actually on the ground, to make sure that these lines aren’t arbitrary, and that they actually reflect reflect the communities,” Berquist said.
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