Goodland Sen. Rick Billinger, right, both Republicans, introduced a proposed Kansas Senate redistricting map Friday, while alternative Senate boundary maps were introduced in a separate committee at the Capitol. (Tim Carpenter/Kansas Reflector)
TOPEKA — Republicans and Democrats along with a voter advocacy group introduced Thursday three competing redistricting maps outlining new boundaries for the 40 Kansas Senate districts in response to population shifts during the past decade.
The Kansas House has not revealed in bill form maps outlining how the 125 representatives’ districts would be shaped heading into the August primary and November general elections.
The filing deadline for legislative districts is June 1, meaning lawmakers need to proceed deliberately with this work to account for potential political or legal challenges.
The Legislature’s recommended maps for the four congressional districts, initially vetoed by Gov. Laura Kelly, are the subject of three lawsuits in Wyandotte and Douglas counties. There are objections to splitting Wyandotte County’s diverse population between two congressional districts and plucking Lawrence from the 2nd District and moving it to the agrarian 1st District covering western Kansas.
Sen. Rick Billinger, a Republican from Goodland and chairman of the Senate Ways and Means Committee, introduced the Senate leadership’s proposed map during a meeting of his budget committee. It was introduced on behalf of Sen. Rick Wilborn, R-McPherson, and chairman of the Senate Redistricting Committee.
The Senate map has a secondary application, because those 40 districts are divided in a manner that creates 10 districts of the Kansas State Board of Education.
Billinger opened the Ways and Means Committee meeting by announcing he was introducing a Senate map. He didn’t share copies of the GOP’s map, which was expected to be published, perhaps by Friday, on the website of the Kansas Legislative Research Department.
“This is the state Senate redistricting plan on behalf of Senator Wilborn and it’s called ‘Liberty 2,'” Billinger said.
“Is this our map we’re going to start with?” asked Sen. Carolyn McGinn, the Sedgwick Republican.
“I believe so,” Billinger said. “They just asked if I would introduce it today.”
In the Senate Federal and State Affairs Committee, the Democrats’ version of a proposed Senate redistricting map was introduced along with a map created by the Kansas League of Women Voters.
Senate Minority Leader Dinah Sykes, D-Lenexa, had the chairman introduce “Bluestem Plan” for the Kansas League of Women Voters and the “Eisenhower Plan” on behalf of Democrats. It was done without fanfare and without Sykes present.
“Because of weather, it’s hard for them to get in here today,” said Sen. Rob Olson, an Olathe Republican and chairman of the Federal and State Affairs Committee.
Martha Pint, co-president of the Kansas League of Women Voters, said in response to questions for this story that the yearlong process of creating a map involved nine local leagues across the state and contributions from other civic groups.
“As for the impact on current members of the Senate, protection of incumbency is a factor that the league explicitly rejects and does not consider an incumbent’s address in our overall process of creating maps,” Pint said.
The Kansas League of Women Voters is among groups that form the KS Fair Maps coalition. Other members include Equality Kansas, Kansas Action for Children, Kansas Appleseed, Kansas Interfaith Action, the League of Women Voters of Kansas, Loud Light, the Mainstream Coalition, and the American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas, which filed a lawsuit in Wyandotte County District Court to challenge a congressional map endorsed by the Legislature earlier this year.
In a statement, KS Fair Maps said the organization would review the maps and look for district boundaries that reflect public testimony, protect communities of interest, and “avoid partisan games that benefit one party over another.”
The statement urged the Legislature to meet the needs of all Kansans and commit to a transparent process.
“In January we witnessed the Legislature unnecessarily rushing the congressional map, and now we have three lawsuits challenging a racially gerrymandered map,” said Laurel Burchfield, a coordinator for KS Fair Maps.
This article was used by permission from the Kansas Reflector. The Kansas Reflector is a non-profit online news organization serving Kansas. For more information on the organization, go to its website at www.kansasreflector.com.