Ending up in the 2nd Congressional District continues to be an uphill battle for the Manhattan area, including Fort Riley, but there’s some comfort in a map that showså that it’s not only possible but geographically sensible.
Given that most maps shift Riley County into the 1st District, and given that the local legislative delegation and most area residents hope to remain in the 2nd District, the new map, Rep. Sydney Carlin, as Manhattan Democrat, noted, is “pretty exciting.”
Congressional redistricting, mandated by the Constitution, is intended to ensure citizens equal representation. Boundaries in Kansas must be altered because of the population shift from rural western Kansas, which is in the 1st District, to urban areas, especially Kansas City, which is in the 3rd District.
The recent map moves southeast Kansas, now in the 2nd District, into the 4th District, and shifts much of the area around Wichita into the 1st District. Replacing much of southeast Kansas in the 2nd District would be Geary, Wabaunsee, Lyon, Chase and Morris counties. Also, Douglas County, now split between the 2nd and 3rd Districts, would be entirely in the 2nd District.
As Rep. Carlin pointed out, the new map meets legal specifications. It has compactness and also has the advantage of commonality. This map would not only include four universities in the 2nd District but also would keep Fort Riley and Fort Leavenworth in the same congressional district.
That’s all good. What isn’t quite as good is the fact that this map might not please Republicans. They will call the shots pertaining to redistricting, represent all four districts now in Congress and understandably want to keep doing it.
The map’s potential flaw, at least to Republicans, is, as Rep. Carlin acknowledged, that it is a little more favorable to Democrats than some other proposals. Keeping Douglas County split and shifting Riley County and environs into the 1st District, which is solidly Republican, would diminish if not eliminate that concern.
Partisanship isn’t supposed to shape redistricting decisions, of course, but it always has. What’s more, to the extent that whichever party is in the majority in this state or any other can get away with it, it probably always will.
Thus, if enough Republicans can be convinced that their interests as well as the state’s interests are best served by this map or another map that keeps Riley County and Fort Riley in the 2nd District, it could happen.
We hope it does.