Lawmakers say more redistricting town halls are coming to Kansas, amid controversy

Capitol Bureau

TOPEKA, (KSNT) — Redistricting town hall meetings in Kansas kick off next week, but leaders of the state’s redistricting committee said that’s just the first round.

Republican Representative and Speaker Ron Ryckman confirmed in a statement Wednesday that a second round of hearings, expected to take place mostly online, is being planned for the fall.

“This initial schedule is just the first step. It’s important to remember that redistricting is a multi-year process that starts with these town halls to get a gauge on what Kansans want. The next step is for census numbers to come in so we can determine what the constitutionally required district size is supposed to be. After that, additional public input will be needed. We plan to do virtual town halls in the Fall and every redistricting committee meeting will be live-streamed online and open to the public to attend in person. This has always been a collaborative and open process in Kansas. It’s disappointing and disingenuous for the Democrats to make it out to be otherwise. We need input and genuine solutions from all parties. I hope they’ll be willing to participate rather than politicize.”

Ron Ryckman, Kansas House of Representatives

The change comes after pushback from some Democrats and other groups calling for more access and participation. Fellow Redistricting Committee member, and Senate Minority Leader, Sen. Dinah Sykes, D-Lenexa, issued the following statement after the first set of meetings were scheduled last week.

“Kansas voters deserve a fair, transparent redistricting process with ample opportunity for citizen
participation. Republicans are treating redistricting the same way they treat the legislative
process: hastily, sloppily, and with as little opportunity for deliberation and public input as possible.
That’s a feature, to them, not a bug. Kansans – and the duly elected Democrats serving on this
committee – deserve more respect from Republican leadership than a perfunctory notice about
this critical process.”

Dinah Sykes

14 town hall meetings are on the books, but some voting rights advocates like Davis Hammet, President of Loud Light, said it’s not enough.

“They’re all happening within two weeks, and all in rapid-fire. Mostly on days that the public can’t attend. It’s in the middle of the workday,” Hammet said. “It’s critical for the public to be able to weigh in on redistricting.”

The change brings hope for some that more people will be able to join in on the redistricting process. Lawmakers are meeting at the Kansas Statehouse to draw up new lines that will decide how each district’s vote is counted.

Some groups calling for more inclusion have said it’s critical for every voice to be represented in the process.

“Having people that represent and come from the same life experiences that we have, makes for better governance. That makes for a better process,” said Ami Hyten, Executive Director of the Topeka Independent Living Resource Center.

The second round of redistricting meetings have not yet been scheduled. The first round of meetings are set to take place across the state.

For a list of the first set of town hall meetings, click here.

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