Archive for Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Redistricting could bring representative changes

Owen Donohoe

Owen Donohoe

November 22, 2011

Redistricting likely won’t affect Bonner Springs and Edwardsville residents, as far as the Unified Government of Wyandotte County and Kansas City, Kan., is concerned. But the same may not be true of Kansas House and Senate districts and, perhaps, congressional representation.

With the 2010 Census results comes the requirement in elective representative districts at the national, state, county and city levels to contain approximately the same number of constituents.

Unified Government commissioners with met in a special session Thursday to discuss the issue, and it appears that Bonner Springs and Edwardsville residents will not be affected by any changes. Tom Cooley, 7th District commissioner, said his district would lose some areas in Kansas City, Kan., but Bonner and Edwardsville should remain in the district.

State legislators are not so far along in their discussions.

Rep. Owen Donohoe, R-Shawnee, who represents the 39th District, said many scenarios have been discussed, but a specific plan hasn’t risen above the pack.

“There are numerous things being contemplated; everybody says, ‘Here is the plan I’d like,’” he said.

The 39th District, which covers Bonner, Basehor and western Shawnee, is at 134 percent of the optimum size of 22,000 people with a population of 34,000, so there’s no doubt the area it covers will shrink. Donohoe’s best guess is that a large part, if not all, of the district’s areas in Leavenworth County will be removed.

Bonner Springs Mayor Clausie Smith and Edwardsville Mayor John “Tiny” McTaggart have discussed the benefits of having their cities within the same district for both the state Senate and House of Representatives.

Edwardsville is currently in House District 36. In the Senate, Bonner is in the 5th District, which stretches north into Leavenworth County, while Edwardsville is in the 6th District with southern Kansas City, Kan.

Smith said it made more sense years ago when the cities were in the same district.

“The interests of the two communities are more similar than maybe the interests of Shawnee and other areas,” he said.

Though he said he wouldn’t be happy about losing Bonner or any of his current constituents, Donohoe agrees constituents deserve more consideration when determining the districts and legislators should work to get the cities in the same district if possible.

“I think the most important things is that the people get the representation that is best for them,” he said.

Kansas retained its four U.S. House districts after the 2010 census. But the boundaries will look vastly different for the 2012 elections.

The census showed the 3rd Congressional District in the Kansas City metro area, which includes Wyandotte and Johnson Counties, has roughly 55,000 people more than it should, and that the sprawling 1st District is about 58,000 residents short and must be further expanded to make up the difference. How the congressional district boundaries will be redrawn also will be left to the Legislature.

Donohoe said he believed lawmakers would aim to vote on redistricting plans by May 10.

Cities also will need to study their city council districts to determine if redistricting is necessary. Rita Hoag, Bonner Springs city clerk, said a redistricting is on the city’s to-do list in 2012, but city staff hasn’t had a chance to look into it yet.

Hoag said the city would be sure to get any changes made and publicized in advance of the city’s April 2013 council elections.

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