There is a better way to draw House and Senate districts for the State of Kansas.
Recent elections reinforced that there is a better way to draw House and Senate districts for the State of Kansas.
Like most state constitutions, Kansas’ founding document calls for representation to be based on the number of people in a district. That sounds logical, but does it truly create the best representation for Kansas residents?
A small part of northwestern Butler County is represented by someone whose district population is primarily Newton and Harvey County. Will their voices really be heard? It would be equally illogical for the representative to live on that small gerrymandered corner of Butler County and claim to represent a city the size of Newton properly.
Because the state has to make the population of each district the same, some areas in the Wichita and Kansas City areas are smaller than an average school district. But in the northwest part of Kansas, one representative has to vote on behalf of people from nine counties.
That is ridiculous. Kansas has 105 counties and 125 representatives in the House. It would be easy to craft a formula that left no more than two counties for any representative to cover. That would leave room for 20 from Kansas City, 10 from Wichita and 5 from Topeka. Butler County might have two members where counties with higher populations had three.
The change is necessary to give people real representatives who share similar life experiences. One person can’t represent nine counties well. A Wichita representative might vote on behalf of 30 percent more people than someone in Western Kansas. But how many people call or write their legislators each year? The percentage is small.
There are many factors that allow good representation. Population is only one.
We would argue it isn’t the most important and shouldn’t be the only factor used in drawing districts.