Redistricting map emerges with county in 2nd District

By Bill Felber

A new congressional redistricting map that surfaced in Topeka Monday keeps Riley County in the Second District.

The map, offered by the Senate co-chair of the redistricting committee, is expected to be a focal point of hearings taking place this week.

Sen. Tim Owens, an Overland Park Republican who co-chairs the committee charged with re-drawing the state’s Congressional boundaries, made the map public during Monday’s hearing. State Rep. Sydney Carlin, a Manhattan Democrat, characterized it as a hopeful sign. Manhattan officials are lobbying hard to retain the county in the Second Congressional District.

“It is a perfectly legal map — with a 2 person deviation,” Carlin said. “It is compact. It gives us four universities in the Second and it keeps Ft. Riley in our district and with Ft. Leavenworth. Pretty exciting.”

While Owens did not endorse the map Monday, his previous maps have all moved Manhattan into the First District. His co-chair, House Speaker Mike O’Neal, has previously endorsed keeping Manhattan in the Second Congressional District.

The redistricting committee must shift the boundaries to reflect population drift from the western First District to the Kansas City-based Third District.  Riley County has been a focus of the discussion because it sits on the border of the First District, and because it has almost precisely the population needed to balance the First District.

The most recent Owens map moves southeast Kansas into the Fourth District, and shifts much of the area around Wichita into the First District. The new Second District gains Wabaunsee, Lyon Chase, Geary and Morris counties, as well as the portion of Nemaha County that had been in the First District and much of Marshall County. It also unites Douglas County in the Second District; previously that county was split between the Second and Third Districts.

One unspoken and unanswered question is whether this map carries any political impact. Republicans, who control both Houses of the Legislature by substantial margins, are certain to be leery of any map that jeopardizes their current hold on all four of the state’s congressional seats. Registration figures were not immediately available, but Carlin characterized the map as slightly more favorable to Democrats.

She suggested there could yet be opposition to the map in the Senate. “There’s lots of work to do, but this is a good start,” she said.

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