If some Republicans in the Kansas Legislature have their way, after the 2012 redistricting process elections in Kansas may be much more like those of Communist countries. Most communist countries have a single-party system with only one candidate on the ballot. In other cases, you can see what is referred to as a de facto single-party system in which other parties or candidates may exist, but the system and rules are so skewed toward one party that no candidate from another party can truly get elected. Some of the outlandish redistricting proposals coming from members of the Kansas Legislature would effectively make Kansas a de facto single-party state ensuring that Democrats in the vast majority of Congressional and Legislative districts have no mathematical chance to be elected and taking voter choice away from Kansas citizens.
From Reason to Insanity
Any glimmer of hope resulting from any small amount of reason exhibited in the early Kansas redistricting conversations is currently being pulverized as the redistricting battle has begun to be driven by extreme partisanship and territoriality. Largely throwing the legislative guidelines to the wind, many State Legislators are creating maps that would eliminate virtually any possibility of voter choice or are protecting their turf to try to ensure re-election.
One recent example, is the so-called “I-70” map proposed by Rep. Anthony Brown of Eudora that creates two Congressional districts that span the width of the state, moves Kansas City, KS and all of Wyandotte county into a district with rural Western Kansas, splits Shawnee county and the Topeka area between two districts, and puts Johnson county into a district with Southeastern Kansas.
The Purpose of Redistricting
The primary purpose of the redistricting process is to ensure equal sized districts and fair representation for citizens that respects communities of interest within the state. For more detail on this please refer to my earlier article, The Case for Reasonable Redistricting.
It seems as though many of our State Legislators have forgotten the true purpose of this process. The goal is not to grab as much power as you can for your political party by drawing maps that defy reason and combine areas of the state that have little to nothing in common.
Another legal guideline for redistricting directs the legislature to make districts as compact as possible and to avoid splitting areas between districts. Creating two districts that sprawl across the state is clearly moving us in the wrong direction from the size problem that already exists with the current first district. Constituent service and contact is severely compromised when districts are drawn in this fashion. There is also no excuse other than political strategy for splitting the Topeka area and Shawnee county.
Why Disenfranchising Democrats Hurts All Kansans
Some Republicans who like their current representative may be celebrating the idea of skewing the districts in such a way that Democrats don’t have a chance. However, if we allow the redistricting process to move Kansas to a de facto single-party state, voters in most parts of the state will no longer have a true choice on election day. This violates the spirit and principles our nation was founded upon.
Additionally, moving in this direction also opens the door for little to no accountability of elected representatives. Once a district is so skewed that another party cannot be competitive, incumbents are almost guaranteed re-election. The only way to stop them is through the primary process, if a challenger can raise enough money and name recognition to win. However, this can be an extremely difficult thing to do in most cases. This could mean you will be stuck with the incumbent for as long as he or she wants to serve.
So, once your incumbent Congressman/woman or State Legislator is in a virtually impenetrable district, don’t be surprised to see them turn a blind eye to the concerns and opinions of the voters. If you want your elected officials to ignore you, then stand by silently and allow the power-hungry to skew the maps their way and that’s exactly what you’ll get.
Want a Better Result? Use Non-Partisan Redistricting
These issues and problems are why so many states have moved to a non-partisan process for redistricting. In my opinion, Kansas should move in this direction. Elected officials are human and, as such, they cannot fully separate themselves from their emotions and motivations to protect their political party or their own seat. Taking it out of their biased hands makes it much more likely that the legal guidelines for redistricting will be followed.
A non-partisan process is something that we could consider in the future, but for now we must use the current system with all its various drawbacks. If you have concerns about making the redistricting maps fair, contact your State Representative and State Senator. If you aren’t sure who these folks are you can find out by typing your address in here: Find your Kansas Legislator. And, you can find contact information for State Legislators at: KSLegislature.org.
You can also consider signing petitions such as the one located here: Keep the Maps Fair. Although this was originally formed to protest combining Wyandotte county with Western Kansas, anyone who want to keep the maps fair can sign on.
If you believe in following the legal guidelines for redistricting and keeping Kansas elections Democratic rather than moving us toward a de facto single-party Communist-like state, please add your voice and tell your State Legislators you want to see a legal process and fair maps.