Could a push for non-partisan redistricting be coming? Expert weighs in

Capitol Bureau

TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) — The Kansas Redistricting Committee kicked off its first round of town halls on Monday, asking the public to weigh in on how maps should be drawn for next year’s election.

During the first meeting in Manhattan, some Kansans called for a more inclusive process.

Jim Swim, a 60-year resident of Marysville and Marshall County, urged lawmakers to adhere to an unbiased method of drawing lines that accurately represent each district.

“A non-partisan process will help protect the community of interest representation,” Swim said. “Please, make this a priority when laying out the boundaries of Kansas.”

Swim also encouraged lawmakers to hold another set of public hearings after 2021 Census data is released, with enough time between each meeting to foster community engagement.

The data is expected to come out in June 2022. Recently, lawmakers announced the second round of online hearings would be held in the fall. Dates have not yet been set, but some are skeptical of whether those hearings will hold any promise.

Swim’s comments echo some voting rights groups that have called for more inclusion in the redistricting process, criticizing lawmakers over the tightly packed schedule for the first round of hearings.

“They’re all happening within two weeks, and all in rapid-fire. Mostly on days that the public can’t attend,” said Davis Hammet, President of Loud Light, an organization with the goal of empowering underrepresented populations.

Political Analyst Dr. Bob Beatty said many of the issues brought up are hard to avoid in a state with a partisan redistricting process, especially when one party has majority rule.

“A majority party actually is under no obligation to take the advice of the citizens during these town halls,” he said.

Dr. Beatty said a non-partisan redistricting process could take other voters, like those that are independent or unaffiliated, into consideration providing a more accurate representation.

In 2011, the battle over how lines should be drawn spilled over to the Supreme Court, leaving judges scrambling to redraw lines before the primary election.

While it’s too soon to tell if that will be the case this year, Dr. Beatty said a battle for power is inevitable with the tension between two parties.

“Let’s keep in mind that in a partisan redistricting process, you can have all the input in the world, but at the end of the day, one party can simply do whatever they want.”

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