Second round of redistricting town halls taking place next week

Politics

TOPEKA (KSNT) — The Kansas Legislative Research Department has announced that House and Senate committees in the state legislature will begin holding a second round of discussions over redistricting in Kansas.

The listening tour will consist of four meetings between Nov. 22 and Nov. 30. Each will be organized by congressional district, with some meetings being combined so that conferees from different locations may provide input during the same meeting time.

This comes after some Kansas groups and lawmakers called for transparency and more inclusion in the state’s redistricting process earlier this year. Rep. Chris Croft, (R) Overland Park, said the new schedule will address this issue by providing later meeting times and in-person and virtual opportunities.

“That’s the way we were able to do at night, by spreading over a four-day period, focusing on congressional districts,” Rep. Croft said. “It’s to add for the ease, where if you’re at home or wherever you can dial-in. You don’t have to drive two to three hours to a spot to provide feedback.”

Lawmakers approved 14 town hall meetings before they draw up lines next year to hear from voters. People are able to come in person or submit their input in writing.

However, talks of potential gerrymandering arose last year after a video surfaced showing former Kansas Senate President Susan Wagle making controversial comments on redistricting.

In a clip taken from a video posted on Sept. 25, 2020, Wagle speaks to the Wichita Pachyderm Club about redistricting around 19 minutes in. She discussed the need for a Republican majority to redraw district maps and to make it harder for Congresswoman Sharice Davids to keep her seat.

Some users reacted to the video on Twitter, calling the GOP leader’s statement “blatant partisanship” and accusing leaders of using redistricting to “sway elections.” It gained traction after being put on Twitter by Davis Hammet here.

Wagle responded to the comments in an interview with KSNT News and said the video is taken out of context. She said the governor is trying to get Democrats elected and to turn districts blue and that she’s within reason to push for her party’s candidates.

“I’m the Senate President. I’m a Republican, and I’m working very hard to get Republicans elected all throughout Kansas,” Wagle said.

Redistricting currently happens every 10 years and is done by lawmakers. If Republicans can keep their supermajority in the state legislature this year, they may be able to override the governor if she doesn’t like how districts are drawn in 2022.

Republicans hold a three-seat advantage for a supermajority in the Senate and just one seat in the House. If Republicans lose those seats, Democrats could side with the governor to make sure Republicans don’t get their way.

However, current Senate President Ty Masterson said the state’s current redistricting committee has no plans of gerrymandering and said his goal is different from the previous senate president’s.

“Every human has a natural bias, and it’s not on either side of the aisle; it’s on both sides of the aisle. Each side would like to see itself get stronger, but that’s not this process,” Masterson said. “We’re going to bring in the data and try to get as close as we can to one person one vote.”

During the upcoming town halls, conferees are encouraged to provide their testimony virtually or at designated public locations in cities across the state. Each site will have audio and visual equipment for conferees to provide testimony. All meetings will be livestreamed online.

For more information on meeting times and the locations for giving testimony in public, check below.

Redistricting Media Release 11-17-2021 by Matthew Self on Scribd

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