Constitutional amendment for census change on November ballot

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WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – This November, you will get a chance to change the constitution regarding the census.

The amendment question seeks to do away with a census count specifically for college students and military personnel to be counted where they come from and not where they are at the time of their vote.

Secretary of State Scott Schwab has the amendment on the SOS official website for the state.

“That saves the state $830,000 plus. It could be even more,” said Schwab.

Schwab says doing away with the second count is a good idea.

But, some are asking if the state Secretary of State website is the right place to be advocating for an issue up for a public vote.

(Courtesy: Kansas Secretary of State)

“There is a concern about whether the office should remain above the political fray and that’s why the concern is the Secretary of State is advocating for one side on an amendment and what that suggests for the future,” said KSN political analyst Jeff Jarman.

Jarman says it could set a precedent for other public office holders to advocate for a vote.

Schwab says it’s on the website, but he says his personal advocacy to get rid of the second count is not profiled on the website.

“We never said to vote for it. We just said if it passes (lawmakers) get the numbers quicker and it saves the state $834,000. That is data-based, and it’s fact-based so I don’t know how that’s advocating.”

Some lawmakers point out the measure passed overwhelmingly in the legislature last year to put it to a public vote. But others say the issue was a distraction last year and could be another distraction heading into the new lawmaking session this year.

“These things are a distractions from a budget issue that the main question is, who pays for government?” said Representative Tim Hodge, D-District 72..

Hodge says the bigger issues of tax cuts for the wealthy and food tax should be the focus. He also argues some of those issues got swallowed up last year when things like a census count came up for a vote.

(Courtesy: Kansas Secretary of State)

“I can see why the rural legislators are nervous about (census count) it, because it will take some of their folks away from their groups in districts,” said Hodge. “And the Lawrences and Manhattans will grow. You will have more districts in Lawrence and Manhattan and less in, say, WaKeeney.”

Hodge says smaller towns could lose some districts for representation because redistricting will be based on the new census. And if there is a population shift to college towns or urban areas, that changes where representation comes from for those rural areas.

But Hodge says while the issue is important, ultimately, the issue can be seen as a distraction.

“In rural Kansas, it’s difficult to make it,” said Hodge. “Food tax is high. There is usually a high mil levy in some rural areas. There will be things like a high water bill or other utilities. So it’s just tough to make it in rural Kansas. Why would anyone move there? We need to be working on solutions for the working class.”

Secretary of State Schwab, meanwhile, says money will be saved if the amendment is voted in by the public.

“It’s time for a change, and this will save money if we are not doing the other count,” said Schwab. “It’s getting harder to get in touch with college kids. They don’t have landlines and everything is a cell phone now.”

Schwab says the second count is only done in Kansas.

“We want to be like the rest of the country,” said Schwab. “And if these changes, we not only save the state money, but we can get the numbers to legislators more quickly. And it gives us the opportunity to give the numbers to lawmakers quicker so they can move forward with redistricting.”

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